Old World Hero Stories - E. M. Tappan

Homer, The Great Story Teller

A long, long time ago—perhaps three thousand years or more—there was a man named Ho'mer. No one knows much about him; but there are legends that he was born on the island of Chi'os and that he was blind. He wandered about the land, homeless, but welcome wherever he chose to go, because he was a poet. He once described how a blind poet was treated at a great banquet, and probably that is the way in which people treated him. He said that when the feast was ready, a page was sent to lead in the honored guest. A silver-studded chair was brought forward for him and set against a pillar. On the pillar the page hung his harp, so near him that he could touch it if he wished. A little table was placed before him, and on it was put a tray spread with food and wine. When the feasting was at an end, he sang a glorious song of the mighty deeds of men. The Greeks liked to hear stories just as well as the people of to-day, and they shouted with delight. Then they all went out to the race-course, the page leading the blind singer carefully along the way. There were races and wrestling matches and boxing and throwing of the discus. After this, the poet took his harp and stepped to the centre of the circle. The young men gathered around him eagerly, and he chanted a story of A'res, the war god, and Aph-ro-di'te, goddess of beauty and love.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


Homer composed two great poems. One is the Il'i-ad, which takes its name from Il'i-um, or Troy, a town in Asia Minor. For ten long years the Greeks tried to capture Ilium. They had good reason for waging war against the Tro'jans, for Par'is, son of the king of Troy, had stolen away the Grecian Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the wife of a Greek prince named Men-e-la'us; and the other princes of Greece joined him in attacking Troy. They took some smaller places round about and divided the booty, as the custom was. In the tenth year of the war, A-chil'les and Ag-a-mem'non, two of the greatest of the princes, quarreled about one of these divisions, and here the Iliad begins. Achilles was so angry that he took his followers, the Myr'mi-dons, left the camp, and declared that he would have nothing more to do with the war, he would return to Greece.

Now the Greeks were in trouble, indeed, for Achilles was their most valiant leader, and his men were exceedingly brave soldiers. They sent his friend Pa-tro'clus to beg him to come back. Achilles would not yield, even to him; but he finally agreed to allow his followers to return and also to lend his armor and equipments to Patroclus.

When the Trojans saw the chariot and armor of Achilles, they ran for their lives, as Patroclus had expected; but at length Hec'tor, son of King Pri'am, ventured to face his enemy; and Patroclus fell. Achilles was heartbroken. It was all his own fault, he declared, and he groaned so heavily that his wailing was heard in the depths of the ocean. He vowed that, come what might, he would be revenged. He went back to the camp and made up the quarrel with Agamemnon; and then he rushed forth into battle. The Trojans were so terrified that they all ran back into the city save one, Hector. But when Achilles dashed forward upon him, his heart failed, and he, too, ran for his life. Three times Achilles chased him around the walls of Troy, then thrust him through with his spear. He tied cords to the feet of his fallen enemy and dragged his body back and forth before the eyes of the Trojans; and when the following morning had come, he dragged it twice around the tomb of Patroclus.



The Greeks believed that if a person's body had not received funeral rites, he would be condemned to wander for one hundred years on the banks of the Styx, the gloomy river of the dead; but Achilles declared in his wrath that the body of Hector should be thrown to the dogs. Then King Priam loaded into his litter rolls of handsome cloth, rich garments, and golden dishes, and made his way to the tent of the fierce warrior. "Your father is an old man like me," he pleaded. "Think of him and show pity. I have brought a wealth of ransom. Take it and give me the body of my son." The fiery Achilles yielded and even agreed to a twelve-days' truce so that the funeral might be celebrated with all due honor. The tale ends with the building of an immense pyre and the burning of the body of Hector.

Homer's second poem is the Od'ys-sey. Troy finally fell into the hands of the Greeks, but U-lys'ses, or O-dys'seus, one of the leaders, was unfortunate enough to be hated by Po-sei'don, god of the sea. His home was on the island of Ith'a-ca; but before Poseidon would allow him to return to it, he drove the homesick wanderer back and forth over the Med-i-ter-ra'ne-an Sea for ten long years and made him undergo all sorts of danger. The Odyssey tells the story of his wanderings and his wonderful adventures. First, he was driven by a storm to the land of the Lo'tus-eaters. Whoever ate the lotus forgot his home and friends, and cared for nothing but to stay in the lotus country and idle his life away in vain and empty dreams. Some of Odysseus's men tasted this fruit; and he had to drag them on board the ship and even tie them to the benches to keep them from staying behind.



Odysseus's second adventure was in the country of the Cy-clo'pes, monstrous giants, each having one huge eye in the middle of his forehead. One of these giants, Pol-y-phe'mus, found the Greeks in his cave when he drove home his sheep and goats. He devoured two of the men at once, and others on the following day. But Odysseus was planning revenge. He offered the giant a great bowl of wine, which pleased him mightily. "What is your name?" the Cyclops asked. "No man," replied Odysseus. Then Polyphemus promised him as a great favor that he should be the last of the company to be eaten. But when the giant was sleeping stupidly, Odysseus and his men took a stick of green olive wood as big as the mast of a ship, heated one end in the fire until it was a burning coal, and plunged it into the eye of Polyphemus. He roared with pain, and the other giants ran from all sides to his aid. "What is it? Who is murdering you?" they cried. "No man," howled the giant, "No man is killing me." "If it is no man," they said, "then your illness comes from Zeus, and you must bear it. We can do nothing," and they went their way.



The Greeks made their escape, but it was not long before they were in trouble again. They landed on the floating island which was the home of Æ'o-lus, god of the winds. He was kind and friendly, and when they departed, he gave Odysseus a leathern sack tied up with a silver cord. All the storm winds were safely shut up in this sack; but Odysseus's men supposed it was full of treasure. They were so afraid they would not get their share that while their leader slept, they tore it open. Æolus had given them a favorable breeze, and they were so close to their own island that they could see men heaping wood on the fires, but now the storm-winds rushed out of the bag, and the vessel was driven back again over the waters.

They landed on the island of the enchantress Cir'ce, who had an unpleasant habit of changing people into the animals that they most resembled. They passed by the Si'rens, beautiful, treacherous maidens who sang so sweetly from a soft green meadow near the shore that no seamen who heard them could help throwing themselves into the water to make their way nearer to the marvelous music. The wise Odysseus had himself bound to the mast and forbade his sailors to free him, whatever he might say or do. Therefore he was able to hear the magical songs in safety. Neither did he lose his vessel, for he had stopped up the ears of the sailors with wax. They passed between the snaky monster Scyl'la and the horrible whirlpool Cha-ryb'dis; and after many long years of wandering and hardship Odysseus arrived on the shore of his beloved Ithaca.



Pe-nel'o-pe, wife of Odysseus, had been tormented by a throng of suitors, who for years had been feasting upon her food and wasting her property. Her son Te-lem'a-chus was only a youth and not yet strong enough to drive them away. Penelope never gave up the hope that Odysseus would return, and to gain time she put the suitors off by every device in her power. When everything else had failed, she began to weave a web in her loom, and promised that when it was done, she would choose among them. She worked at this for three years, and the suitors waited; but in the fourth year her maids found out the secret, that she was pulling out by night what she wove by day. In the very nick of time Odysseus appeared. He and Telemachus slew the wicked suitors and punished all who had been unfaithful in his absence. Then Telemachus and Penelope and the aged father of Odysseus rejoiced, for at last their lord had come to his own again.

These are bits of the stories that Homer tells in the Iliad and the Odyssey; but their greatest charm is in his manner of telling them. He seems to know just how each one of his characters feels. He understands the anger of Achilles, and he sympathizes with the sorrow of Hector's wife when the hero is going forth to battle. He knows how to use words so marvelously well that he can make one line sound like the tramping of horses on a plain and another like the beating of waves against the rocks. He describes every event as if he himself had seen it, and he never forgets to mention the little things which so many people pass over. Best of all, the stories are told so simply and naturally that, even after the many centuries, we can hardly help feeling that Homer is alive and is telling them directly to us.


Homer. — The treatment of a poet. — The Iliad. — The death of Patroclus and of Hector. — The Odyssey. — The Lotus-eaters. — The Cyclopes. — The storm-winds. — Circe. — The Sirens. — Scylla and Charybdis. — The return of Odysseus.

Lycurgus, Who Made His Countrymen Into Soldiers

No one can say just how much of the stories that Homer tells is true; but one thing seems certain, namely, that in very early times many of the Greeks joined together to wage war against the Trojans. They did not often unite in any undertaking, for Greece was made up of little kingdoms, generally separated from one another by mountains or arms of the sea; and each kingdom had its own laws and customs and was exceedingly jealous of the others.

There were several reasons, however, why the people of these little states felt that, quarrel as they might, they nevertheless belonged to the same family. They spoke the same language and they worshiped the same gods. They believed that the surest way to learn the will of the gods was to go to an oracle. The most famous was that of A-pol'lo at Del'phi, a wild spot in the mountains. From a cleft in the rock a stupefying vapor arose. The priestess breathed this until she was half unconscious. The priests noted carefully all her mutterings and broken sentences and interpreted them to the people who were always eagerly waiting for answers to questions of all sorts. These oracles were highly valued by all the Greeks; and, however much they might differ on other points, they were united in wishing to protect them and even the roads which led to them. For this purpose they formed am-phic'tv-on-ies, or "groups of neighbors."

Greek worship


A third bond among the Greeks was the games, in which no foreigner was allowed to take part. All the Greeks believed that the gods liked to see athletic contests; and therefore the games became very important. The most noted were held at O-lym'pi-a. At first there were only foot-races; but later there were wrestling, boxing, leaping, throwing quoits, hurling javelins, and races of four-horse chariots. The only reward given to the victor was a wreath of wild olive; but he was applauded and feasted; statues were set up in his honor, a seat was reserved for him at the theatre, and as long as he lived he was treated with the utmost respect.

Olympia foot-race


Each little kingdom had its own ways, as has been said; but the two that were most unlike were La-co'ni-a with its capital Spar'ta, and At'ti-ca, whose chief city was Ath'ens. The legends say that Ly-cur'gus was the person who established the customs of Sparta. When he was a young man, his enemies spread the story that he meant to steal the kingdom from the baby king. Lycurgus was so indignant that he left the country and stayed in exile for many years. When at length he came back, he was full of plans for making Laconia the strongest state in Greece. His countrymen were ready to follow his lead; but they must have been surprised at some of his requirements. First, he insisted that all the land should be divided equally among the citizens. The people agreed to this, but they would not agree to having the money divided; so Lycurgus had a law passed that iron should be used for money and that gold and silver should be of no value. He made them all, from the king down, eat at the same table and live on the simplest sort of food, a repulsive black broth being the principal dish. Their houses had to be built of rough logs. The doors could not have fitted very well; for it was forbidden to use any tool but the saw.



But Lycurgus was far more interested in the children than in the grown folk, and he planned to bring up the boys and girls to despise luxury and even comfort and to glory in being able to bear hardship. In the first place, no baby was allowed to live unless it seemed to be strong and well. Until the boys were twelve years old, they ran about naked, that they might become used to heat and cold and storm. To teach them to provide for themselves in time of war, he gave them little food and ordered them to steal the rest as best they could. If they were clumsy in doing this and were caught, they not only went without the food, but they were soundly whipped. Indeed, they seem to have been whipped for almost everything. The object of this was not only to make them perfectly obedient, but to teach them to bear pain. Once at least the older boys were brought before one of the altars and flogged most severely. The one who bore the suffering longest was given a reward and was praised by every one. It is said that one boy was flogged to death without even crying out.

The education of the boys was not neglected. They were taught music and poetry and a little of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Much more attention, however, was paid to teaching them to talk in the fashion that Lycurgus thought best. He bade them be silent unless they had something worth saying, and then to use few words. If a boy was asked a question, he was taught to make a brief, pointed reply. For instance, when a Spartan was asked if he would not come to listen to a person who could imitate the song of the nightingale, he replied, "I have heard the nightingale herself." This retort was certainly as rude as it was keen, but it was just what pleased Lycurgus.

The boys were expected to do their own thinking, and tests of their ability to do this were often given them. Every group of boys was in the charge of an i'ren, a young man of twenty years. From time to time, they were called together before the older men and the magistrates, and the iren bade them do various things to prove their progress. One of the hardest of these tests was to call upon a boy to tell whether some action of one of the prominent men was good or bad. He must not only say whether he thought it was wise or unwise, but he must give reasons for his opinion. If he did not do well, the iren punished him. After the test had come to an end, the boys were sent away; and now came the test of the iren himself. If it was thought that he had not decided wisely and justly, he was flogged even more severely than the boys.

The girls were not treated so harshly; but they were made to run and wrestle and throw quoits in order to make them hardy and strong. They were taught that the most admirable thing in the world was glory in war, and that a woman's highest honor was to lose her son in the service of the state. When a Spartan youth was starting out for battle, his mother's farewell was not tears and prayers, but the bidding, "Return with your shield or on your shield," that is, "Conquer or die."



This is the way Lycurgus trained his countrymen. He taught the young people to be kind and respectful to the aged, to be honest and upright, to tell the truth, and above all things to love their country. The Spartans became such brave soldiers and such devoted patriots that for nearly five hundred years Laconia was the strongest of the kingdoms of Greece. So far this training was most excellent; but on the other hand, the Spartans cannot have been very agreeable companions. They were so sure that their own ways were best that they despised the ways of other folk. Moreover, they were not polite enough to keep their opinions to themselves, but had a disagreeable fashion of telling people how foolish they were and how much more wisely the Spartans managed affairs. Nevertheless, Lycurgus had made them just what he wanted them to be, a race of bold, hardy soldiers. The question was how to keep them so; for he was afraid that after he was dead, they would slip back into their old ways and become like the people of the other states. At length he fixed upon a plan. He called them together and told them that, much as had been done, there was still one thing more which was necessary to the prosperity of the kingdom. Before he revealed it, he must first make a journey to the oracle at Delphi, he said; and then he asked them, "Will you solemnly swear to obey the laws until I return?" Of course they would; the man who had made their country so great might ask whatever he chose; and they took a solemn oath to keep the laws. Lycurgus went to Delphi. He offered up a sacrifice to the gods, bade farewell to his son and the friends who had journeyed with him, and then refused all food and waited for death. He ordered that his body should be burned and his ashes not carried to his own country, but thrown into the sea; and thus the Spartans could never say that even his body had returned. This was the way by which he made sure that the people would keep his laws; and he died happy in the belief that his state would be strong and powerful forever.


The truth in Homer. — Delphi. — The Olympian games. — The requirements of Lycurgus. — How the Spartan boys were brought up. — Their fashion of talking. — The iren. — The treatment of girls. — The result of Spartan training. — The death of Lycurgus.

Solon, Who Made Laws For The Athenians

A certain young A-the'ni-an named So'lon expected to inherit a large fortune; but when his father died, it was found that he had been so generous to all in need as to leave little property to his son. There were wealthy friends who would have willingly supported Solon, but he preferred to support himself, and he became a merchant. In those times, a merchant not only sold goods, but he went from land to land to purchase them. In this business Solon made himself rich and also saw the customs and became familiar with the laws of many countries. People said that he was always eager to learn and that he liked to write poetry. He was a most devoted father. When one of his children died, he wept as if his heart would break. A friend who tried to comfort him pleaded with him not to weep, because it would do no good. "And that is just why I do weep," Solon replied.

At that time the Athenians were divided into parties, and the members of each party thought far more of having their own way than of acting for the good of the state. Athens became so weak that even the tiny kingdom of Meg'ar-a ventured to make war against her, and got possession of the island of Sal'a-mis, and, what was more, held on to it in spite of the efforts of the Athenians to win it back. At length they gave up all hope of ever regaining it. They even passed a decree that any one who should suggest making the attempt should be looked upon as an enemy to his country and should be put to death.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


Now Salamis was Solon's birthplace, and he could not bear to have it in the hands of enemies. The way he set about regaining it, however, was to shut himself up in his house and send out a report that he had become insane. In reality, he was writing a poem; and when it was done, he sallied forth into the marketplace, always full of people, and mounted the stone from which proclamations were made. There he stood and recited the poem. It was a ringing appeal to his countrymen to recover the island. An insane man could not be put to death for breaking a law; and this poem so aroused the Athenians that they repealed the law, set out for war, put Solon in command, and regained the island.

In another way Solon was of great help to his countrymen. The Athenian, Cy'lon, and his friends had raised a revolt and had seized the temple of the goddess Mi-ner'va. The magistrates told them that if they would tie a cord to the shrine of the goddess and keep fast hold of it, they would still be under her protection and might come down from the temple and be sure of a fair trial. It chanced that the cord gave way; and at this the magistrates rushed upon them and killed them. Some of the Athenians believed that the many troubles of the state had come upon it because of this broken promise, and they were most grateful to Solon when he induced the magistrates to come to trial. The people of Megara took advantage of the difficulties of the Athenians and seized Salamis again. There is no knowing when the struggle over the island would have come to an end, had not both states finally agreed to leave the decision to five judges appointed by the Spartans. Then each side pleaded its right to Salamis. Solon was the chief speaker for the Athenians. He could reason and argue as well as fight; and he won the victory. Salamis was given to Athens.

Solon now became a maker of laws. No two parties wanted exactly the same thing. Taking the people as a whole, the only change desired by the rich was to be better protected in enjoying their wealth; while the poor thought that all wealth ought to be equally divided among the citizens, whether they had ever done anything to earn it or not. These different classes all had confidence in Solon; and he was chosen archon, or chief magistrate. The men who owned little farms were in the most pressing trouble. If a hard season had made it necessary for a farmer to borrow some money, he had to give so high a rate of interest that there was small hope of his debt ever being paid. In that case, his creditor had a legal right to sell him as a slave. Solon's first laws were made to help these farmers. He allowed them to pay their debts to individuals in coins only three fourths as heavy as the old ones, but counted as of the same value. He forgave all debts of farmers to the state. He decreed that no man should be made a slave because he failed to pay borrowed money; that whoever had seized a man as a slave should set him free, and if he had been sold into a foreign country, should bring him back.

Solon's next reform was in regard to the manner of making the laws. Thus far, they had been made by the nobles, that is, the men of high birth. Solon divided the people into four classes according to their income from land. The wealthiest class alone were to hold the highest offices; but they had to pay the most taxes. The lowest class could hold no office in the state, as they paid no taxes for its support; but every man could rise from one class to another, and every man, rich or poor, had the right to vote in the general assembly.

Solon did not forget to look out for the interests of the children. He forbade people to sell their children as slaves, a thing which had formerly been allowed; and he ordered that every father should teach his son a trade. If he neglected, to do this, the law did not oblige the son to care for him in his old age.

The laws to punish crime had been put in shape by Dra'co about a quarter of a century earlier. They were so severe that they were said to have been written in blood. Even the smallest theft was punished by death. Solon revised them and made them far more reasonable. Then he turned his attention to some of the ways in which money was wasted.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


He decreed that less should be expended in display at funerals, that not more than three garments should be buried with the body, that there should be no sacrifice of an ox and no hired mourners. A woman going on a journey was permitted to carry only three dresses.

The laws of Solon were written on wooden tablets and set up in places where every one could read them. There is a tradition that he began to put them into verse, but gave up the attempt. Every one did read them; and promptly one and all began to find fault. The wealthy nobles had lost a great deal of money by the remitting of debts and the freeing of slaves; and they were indignant that so great a share in the government had also been taken from them. The poor people had supposed that in some mysterious way these changes would make them all rich; and they felt wronged and disappointed. Each little party had its special grievance, and everybody blamed Solon. Besides this, people were constantly appealing to him to know the meaning of one law or another; and at length he concluded that it would be best for him to go away for a while and let the Athenians manage matters for themselves. He made them promise that they would keep his laws for ten years, and then he left the country.

When he returned, he found affairs no better. The people were restless and dissatisfied, and a man named Pi-sis'tra-tus was gaining much influence over them. Pisistratus had a frank, pleasant manner, he was generous, and he had won victories in the Olympian chariot-races. He claimed to be a devoted friend to the poor, and made them feel that if he were only in power, he would do great things for them. One day. with his face smeared with blood, he rode into the market place and declared that his enemies had tried to kill him for being so devoted to the interests of the poor. Pisistratus was a relative of Solon, but the honest old patriot could not endure this, and he cried out, "Pisistratus, you have done this thing to impose upon your countrymen." Nevertheless, the people believed in Pisistratus and allowed him to have a guard of armed men. This guard grew larger and larger, and by and by this "friend of the people" captured the Acropolis, that is, the hill on which stood the finest temples and the strongest fortifications; and Pisistratus was now ruler of Athens. Solon could do nothing to prevent, and he put his weapons outside his door with these words: "I have done all in my power to defend my country and its laws."

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


After it was clear that Pisistratus would be able to remain in control, the friends of Solon were afraid of what he might do to the aged man to punish him for his opposition. Thy begged Solon to flee; but he refused. He stayed in his own house and made verses to the effect that whatever difficulties the Athenians might fall into, it was all their own fault.

Most men of that time, if in the place of Pisistratus, would have at least made Solon's life uncomfortable; but Pisistratus was too wise, and perhaps too good-natured. He always treated Solon with the greatest kindness and respect, asked his advice, and what was more, generally followed it. Solon believed that Pisistratus had no right to rule and that the Athenians would yet be sorry that they had allowed him to seize the government; but since he was in power and could not be put out, Solon thought that the best thing he could do for his state was to help make his rule as excellent as possible. This was the easier for Solon because Pisistratus really ruled extremely well. He gave cattle and seeds and tolls to the poor farmers; he reared handsome buildings; and, besides this, he invited all the people who knew the poems of Homer and He'si-od by heart to come together in Athens and compare them as they had been used to reciting them. Then he had copies carefully made of the version that was decided to be the best. That is how it came to pass that we have the poems of these two great poets in almost the same words in which they were composed.

Solon always loved Salamis, and when he came to die, he bade his friends carry his ashes across the water and scatter them over his beloved island.


The early life of Solon. — The capture of Salamis. — Cylon and the magistrates. — Salamis is regained. — Solon aids the farmers. — He reforms the manner of making laws. — The laws of Draco. — Edicts against extravagance. — The reception of Solon's laws. — The exile of Solon. — Pisistratus becomes ruler of Athens. — His treatment of Solon. — He saves the poems of Homer and Hesiod.

Darius Of Persia Is Repulsed At Marathon

The little country of Greece was not without its neighbors. Far away to the east, too far for any intercourse, were China and India. In the valley of the Ti'gris and the Eu-phra'tes Rivers there were, first, the Chal-dæ'ans, a learned folk who knew a good deal about astronomy and who collected great libraries. At the first glance, a library must have looked somewhat like a brick-kiln; for the Chaldæans wrote on little tablets of clay in wedge-shaped letters. They built many temples with rough pyramids of brick for their foundations.

Chaldæa was at length conquered by the As-syr'i-ans. They were fierce warriors and terribly cruel to their captives. The kings had a fashion of inscribing on the walls of their palaces accounts of their greatest exploits; and one of them wrote proudly of a people whom he had conquered that he had cut off the hands and feet of some and the noses, ears, and lips of others, that he had built a tower of the heads of the old men, and had tossed the little children into the fires. The Assyrians built palaces of brick whose foundations were mounds eighty or ninety feet high and covered many acres.

The Assyrians as well as the Chaldæans made great collections of clay books. The most famous of these libraries was in the city of Nineveh. It is thought that it contained ten thousand tablets.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


After six centuries had passed, the Neb-u-chad-nez'zar whose story is told in the Old Testament conquered Je-ru'sa-lem, carried away the silver and gold from Sol'o-mon's temple, and burned the temple itself. The people he made slaves. Bab'y-lon became his capital, and such a capital as it was! He had taken so many thousand captives in his wars that there was no limit to the number of men that could be forced to work for him. He built and repaired temples by the score. He built himself a palace that was six miles in circumference. Around it were three walls, entered by three gates made of brass taken from Jerusalem. The most famous of his structures were the Hanging Gardens, that were counted as one of the seven wonders of the world. Nebuchadnezzar's wife came from a country of mountains, and she had no liking for the level plains over which her husband ruled. Therefore he set to work to make a mountain for her. First, he had terraces built of earth resting on heavy piers. These formed a mound four hundred feet high. Trees were set out on this mound, which were moistened by water drawn up from the river Euphrates below. Whether the queen was pleased, no one can say; but in a flat country even a little hill seems lofty, and on the level plains of Babylonia the Gardens must have looked much like a real mountain.



In Syr'i-a was the kingdom of the He'brews, who in the midst of worshipers of many deities never yielded their belief in the one God. After the times of Solomon, the land was divided up into the Kingdom of Is'ra-el, whose capital was Sa-ma'ri-a, and the Kingdom of Ju'dah, whose capital was Jerusalem. The Assyrians overpowered the Kingdom of Israel, and Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Kingdom of Judah and destroyed the temple, as has been said.

Stretched along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea was Phœ-ni'ci-a with its chief cities, Tyre and Si'don. The Phœnicians were traders and fearless sailors. While most other nations hugged the shore and trembled at the terrors of the ocean, the hardy Phœnicians sailed boldly through what is now the Strait of Gibraltar, made their way to Britain, and loaded their vessels with the products of the British tin mines. Another article of which they sold a vast amount was the famous Tyrian purple, a deep red dye made of a shell-fish that was found on the Phœnician coast. Then, too, they sold an enormous quantity of fir from the forests of Mount Leb'a-non, which lay on the eastern border of their country. When Solomon was about to build the temple in Jerusalem, he sent to Tyre for fir. The Assyrians and Babylonians, too, would not have been able to rear their great structures if they could not have obtained wood from the Phœnicians.

But of all the neighbors of Greece, the ancient country of E'gypt was the most interesting. Egypt was really the lands watered by the river Nile; and if there had been no Nile, there would have been no Egypt, for the land was formed by the soil brought down by the river. Every year, when the rains were heavy at the sources of the Nile, it rose and overflowed its banks. When the stream subsided, it left behind it a layer of rich mud. Seeds were planted in this, and as if by magic the bare mud-flats became covered with the rich green of fast-growing crops.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


The Egyptians were skilled in astronomy and geometry. They wrote in hieroglyphics, that is, in rude pictures rather than in words. In one respect they were like the Hebrews, namely, they believed in one God. At least, such is thought to have been the belief of the priests. It was supposed that the common folk could not understand this belief; and therefore they were taught to worship many gods and to show the utmost reverence to certain animals which were regarded as representing them. It was thought that people whose lives had not been good were obliged to return to earth over and over again in the forms of various animals. This was called the transmigration of souls. Another part of the general belief was that after many thousand years the spirits of the dead would return and would wish to live again in their former bodies. This is why bodies were carefully embalmed, that is, wrapped so closely in bandages with oils and gums that great numbers of them have been preserved to this day and are the mummies which are shown in our museums. One of these is the body of Ram'e-ses II, the king who held in bondage the Children of Israel.

As the Egyptian kings were so sure that they would need their bodies, they built elaborate tombs for them. The oldest and most wonderful of these are the pyramids. King Che'ops built the largest pyramid. Its base covers thirteen acres, and it is more than four hundred and fifty feet high. Cheops meant that this should last forever; but the beautifully polished stones of the outside and many of the, rougher stones under them were taken down centuries ago and carried to Cairo to be used in other building. Many pyramids have been almost entirely destroyed, but about thirty are still standing.

Not far from the pyramid of Cheops is a great stone figure, seventy feet high, called the Sphinx. It has the face of a human being and the body of a lion. The Egyptian statues were not handsome in the least, but they were majestic and dignified. The Egyptians knew how to make some beautiful things; for instance, they could color glass far better than it can be done to-day; but in their statues they aimed chiefly at size. In the ruins of their cities there are great numbers of stone pillars, some of which are more than seventy feet high. At Thebes, there are two statues which are forty-seven feet high, and each is hewn from a single block of stone. Many of these great blocks were brought from a long distance, but we can only guess how this was done. The pyramids were built at least four thousand years ago. But no nation does such work while it is young; therefore we may be sure that even in those days Egypt was an old country; and when she was in the time of her youth no one can say.

When the year 600 B.C. had come, the strongest of these neighboring kingdoms was Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was on the throne. Egypt fell under his power. Little Phœnicia, with her narrow strip of seacoast, had never been able to stand alone, but had paid tribute to one country after another; and she, too, came into the hands of Babylon. With the capture of Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar had put an end to the Hebrew kingdom. He ruled not only in the valley of the Tigris and the Euphrates, but westward to the Mediterranean, and he also held Egypt. He was very proud of his conquests and his wide-spreading territories; but long before the year 500 B.C. had come, Babylon had lost them all.

The new conqueror was the kingdom of the Medes and Per'sians, which had grown up to the east of the Tigris and the Euphrates valley. At first the Medes were the stronger of the two peoples, then the Persians. In the year 500, King Da-ri'us was on the Persian throne. He already held all that had belonged to Babylon; he had pushed to the east and conquered northwestern In'di-a; he had forced many towns in Thrace and Mac-e-do'ni-a to yield to him; and now he was ready to attack Greece. He had a good excuse for making the attack. Some time before this, the I-o'ni-ans, an ancient name for the people of Athens, had made settlements on the coast of Lyd'i-a. These had fallen into the hands of the Persians. In course of time they had revolted against Persia, and the Athenians had helped them. When Darius heard what the Athenians had done, he vowed that he would be revenged upon them, and he gave to a slave the command, "Whenever I seat myself to eat, do you cry aloud thrice, 'O king, remember the Athenians!'"



Darius remembered them. Just as soon as he could make ready, he sent a fleet and an army against them. The fleet had to pass a long rocky promontory, not very safe in a calm and extremely dangerous in bad weather. Just as the vessels were off Mount Ath'os, the end of the promontory, a furious storm arose and dashed them upon the rocks. So many ships were destroyed and so many men were drowned that there was nothing for the Persians to do but to call back the army that had been sent by land and return to Persia.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


Darius was not the kind of man to give up, and before long he was ready to try again. First, however, he sent envoys to the different states of Greece to demand that they send him earth and water. This was a token of submission. Some of the states yielded, but the Athenians were so indignant that they hurled the envoys into a chasm. The Spartans were quite as regardless of the rights of messengers and threw the envoys sent to them into a well, crying out, "There's your earth and water. Take your fill."



A very angry man was King Darius of Persia. He did not wait for a calm day to sail around Mount Athos, but went straight across the sea to Attica. His troops knew just where to land, for on board of one of the vessels was a Greek named Hip'pi-as who knew the country well. He was the son of Pisistratus; and after his father's death, he had become ruler of Athens; but he was so tyrannical that he was driven out of the kingdom. He fled to Persia; and now he thought that if Darius could only conquer Athens, he himself might again become its ruler. Hippias told the Persians to land at the plain of Mar'a-thon. It was so wide and level, he said, that it would give plenty of room for using the cavalry.

The Athenian army was commanded by ten generals, who took turns in ruling for one day. Five of them wished to engage in battle; the other five did not think this was wise. There was one other person who had a vote, the minister of war. Mil-ti'a-des, a general who wished to fight, went to him secretly and persuaded him to favor a battle. So it was that the famous battle of Marathon was fought. Miltiades was in command. He drew up his lines in front of the hills at the edge of the plain. The Persians, ten times the number of the Greeks; were on the plain between them and the sea. Off the shore were the ships and the chains in which they planned to carry away the Greeks into captivity. The first charge was a vast surprise to the Persians, for the Greeks dashed upon them with no bowmen and no cavalry for protection. Then the two lines met in deadly conflict. Near the end of the engagement, the Greek wings routed the Persian wings; but the Persian centre broke through the Greek centre. Then the Greek wings faced about and burst upon the enemy so furiously that the Persians, who had felt so sure of their victory, ran for their lives across the plain and down the slope of the shore. They splashed through the shallow water and clambered into their vessels as if fiends instead of Greeks were after them; but before they could get away, the Greeks had captured seven of their vessels.

The Persians did not give up, but hurried away as fast as their oars could drive them. Not a moment's rest was there for the weary Greeks, for the vessels were pointed toward Athens. The soldiers marched off at full speed; and when the Persians arrived and saw them encamped on a little river close to the city, they went back to their own country.

Sometimes a small battle is far more important than many a large one. The number of men who fought at Marathon was not great; but it was a momentous engagement, because it saved the liberty-loving Greeks from becoming the slaves of the Persians.

All honor was shown to Miltiades and to the minister of war, who had been slain in the battle. Their statues were even placed among those of the gods. It was the custom to bring home for burial the bodies of men who had fallen; but as a mark of special honor the Greeks agreed to bury the heroes of Marathon on the field. Over them were raised two mighty mounds of earth. Stately marble pillars were reared, whereon was written the name of every man, be he commander or slave, who had died in that place to save the freedom of Greece. The pillars have long since disappeared, but the great mounds of earth still remain and are pointed out to every one who visits the battlefield.


The Chaldæans. — The Assyrians. — Nebuchadnezzar and the Hanging Gardens. — The Hebrews. — Phœnicia. — Egypt and the Nile. — Hieroglyphics. — Transmigration of souls. — The pyramids. — The sphinx. — The great size of Egyptian sculpture. — The victories of the Medes and Persians. — The expedition of Darius against the Athenians. — His second expedition. — The battle of Marathon.

Xerxes Of Persia Tries To Conquer Greece

Xerxes, who followed Darius as king of Persia, would much rather have stayed at home and enjoyed himself; but his counselors insisted that it would never do not to punish those insolent Greeks who had beaten his father's forces at Marathon. When once he had yielded, he set to work with energy to make ready for an invasion. He cut a canal across the promontory of Mount Athos, and he built two bridges of boats across the Hel'les-pont. He put up great storehouses along his proposed line of march and filled them with food. Then he fell into a fury, for a storm had swept away his bridges. Not even the Hellespont had any right to oppose the king of Persia, he thought, and as a punishment for this impertinence he bade his men give the waters three hundred lashes.

The mighty Persian army marched to the Hellespont. A marble throne was built for Xerxes on a hilltop, and there he sat gazing at the hundreds of thousands of men encamped below him. Suddenly he began to weep, because the thought had struck him that a hundred years from then not one of those men would be alive. This was undoubtedly true, but no able commander would have had time to think of it on the eve of an invasion.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


On the following day came the crossing of the bridges, and the most superb procession that the world has ever seen. There was Xerxes himself in a magnificent war-chariot, and there was the even more magnificent chariot of the sun-god with its eight white horses. There were the Ten Thousand Immortals, the special guard of the king, who marched gravely and steadily with crowns on their heads. There were troops from the many nations subject to Xerxes. Some of them wore coats of mail, some wore linen corselets, and some wore long cloaks. They carried all sorts of weapons; spears, daggers, bows, and arrows, and even heavy clubs knotted with iron, according to the customs of their countries. There were long lines of camels and servants with provisions. There were also more than four thousand ships gathered together in the waters. Fortunately for all folk who like to hear a good story, there was a little four-year old boy then living in Asia Minor named He-rod'o-tus. When he grew up, he traveled to many places where interesting things had happened, learned all that he could about them, and wrote what he had learned. It is he who tells us about the expeditions of the Persians and this crossing of the bridges of boats by the greatest army that was ever brought together.

Herodotus and Thycidides


The Greeks were in so great anxiety that some of them were ready to send earth and water at once. Others were determined to resist even the mighty Persian sovereign. But they were so jealous of one another that even in their trouble they quarreled about the leadership. At length Athens, Sparta, and a few other states agreed to stand together, and the command was given to Le-on'i-das, the Spartan king.

The Persians were marching nearer and nearer, keeping close to the shore. Xerxes heard that a few of the Greeks were at the Pass of Ther-mop'y-læ, but with his hundreds of thousands of men that was a small matter, and he marched on. He had just lost four hundred ships in a storm, and the Greeks were guarding the Eu-ri'pus, the strait between the island of Eu-bœ'a and the mainland, or else he might have carried his men to Attica by water — if he had thought it was worth while.

At Thermopylæ the mountains jut out into the sea and leave only a narrow passage between them and the water. Here Leonidas with three hundred Spartans and about six thousand men from other tribes took their stand against the enormous numbers of the Persians. There were two days of terrible fighting. Then a traitor, who hoped for a great reward, told Xerxes that there was a footpath by which his men could go over the mountains and around the Pass.

When Leonidas found that the path had been discovered, he knew that he could not hold Thermopylæ. Nevertheless, he would not withdraw. "The laws of our country forbid that we should leave the place that we have been sent to guard," he said. The others made their way to their homes; but the Spartans and also the Thes'pi-ans refused to retreat. The Persians came upon them from above and from below. They fought with their weapons, then with their teeth, with their fists, with stones, with anything that would make a wound or strike a blow, until every man of them was slain. The Persians had won the Pass of Thermopylæ, and they set out for Athens.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


There was now no reason for guarding the Euripus, and the Greek warships sailed through it toward the south. The commander of the Athenian vessels was The-mis'to-cles, a man who had fought at Marathon. He was a far-seeing man, and at the time when the Greeks were rejoicing because they had driven away Darius, he was serious and grave. "The Persians will come again," he declared, "and we must learn to defend ourselves on the water as well as on the land." His constant cry was, "Build ships, build ships." The Athenians were slow to yield, but finally a fleet was built. This was the fleet which Themistocles was bringing down the Euripus. This commander never overlooked any chances. He knew that there must be Ionians, who were of Greek descent, in the army of Xerxes, and he cut messages for them on the rocks along the way. "Men of Ionia," these inscriptions said, "come over to our side if possible; if you cannot do this, we pray you stand aloof from the contest, or at least fight backwardly."

The Persians were aiming first at Athens; and the other kingdoms had abandoned her to her fate. The states lying to the south of the Isthmus of Cor'inth, the Pel-o-pon-ne'sus, as that part of the country was called, were working night and day to build a high wall across the Isthmus to protect themselves and their own cities; and the Persians swept down upon Athens. They plundered and burned and destroyed till there was hardly one stone left standing upon another. The people of the city were saved; for just before the coming of the Persians they had been crowded into boats and carried to safe places.

Long before this, the Athenians had sent to the oracle at Delphi for advice. One line of it was, "Holy Salamis, thou shalt destroy the offspring of women." but who could say whether the "offspring of women" meant Greeks or Persians? Themistocles believed that it meant the Persians, and that a naval victory at Salamis was the only hope of the Greeks.

The men of the Peloponnesus who were building the wall objected. "We will fight at the Isthmus," they said, "and then if we are defeated, we can retreat to our homes; but we will not go out to fight on the water." Themistocles believed that the oracle had promised a victory at Salamis and nowhere else, and he resolved to make the objectors fight, whether they would or not. He sent a faithful slave to Xerxes to say that the Greeks were divided, that some were for him and some were against him. "Now is your chance to win a glorious victory," the message ended. The Persians were made to think that this message was sent by some Greek commander who favored their side. The envoys of the states met again and talked far into the night. While they debated, a message was brought to Themistocles: "There is one without who would speak to you." It was an Athenian named Ar-is-ti'des. He, too, had been at Marathon. He was so upright and honorable that he was known as "the Just." He had believed that Themistocles was entirely in the wrong in urging the building of ships. He had opposed the course of his rival so strongly that at length the matter was brought to the test of ostracism. This was a peculiar custom of the Athenians. If it was thought that any one man was gaining too much power, the citizens were called together, and each was requested to write on a shell (os'tra-kon) the name of any one who he thought might endanger the liberty of the state. If any one person received six thousand votes, he was banished for ten years. It was in this way that Aristides had been banished. The Greeks had permitted all those to return who had been sent away, lest they should join the Persians; and here was Aristides in the darkness of the night, bringing a message to his old opponent Themistocles.

Aristides was so earnest a patriot that he was perfectly willing to help even Themistocles to win glory if by so doing he could save his country, and he whispered, "The Persian ships are at the entrance of the strait." Then Themistocles was delighted. He saw that his trick had deceived the enemy and that now the Greeks would have to fight on the water.



So it was that the battle of Salamis came about. The Greek ships formed in a line extending from Attica to Salamis. The Persian vessels lay to the south of them. Then the conflict began. All day long the battle raged. Both sides fought with the utmost courage. Indeed, the Persians would have done better if their commanders had not been quite so fearless. Every one of them was eager to do some brave deed under the eye of the king, have his name set down by the royal secretaries as one of the king's "benefactors," and win the reward and honors that would await him. The result of this was that when the foremost Persian ships were put to flight, the vessels coming up behind them pressed on so zealously that they knocked against them and against one another. Rudders were destroyed, oars were snapped off, and the ships of the invaders drifted about helplessly, were rammed by the Greeks, and sank by the score. The Greeks were here, there, and everywhere; and wherever a Grecian vessel went, it ran its sharp prow into the sides of the Persian ships. The Greeks even sailed around the Persian fleet and attacked it from the rear. When night came, they had won the victory. Xerxes started for home, sailing as fast as a ship would carry him for he was terribly alarmed lest the Greeks should destroy the bridges over the Hellespont before his troops could march across them. Herodotus says that if all the men and women in the world had advised him to stay, he would not have done it. One of his generals was eager to try again, and he remained with three hundred thousand men. By this time the states had learned that they must unite. There was a savage battle at Pla-tæ'a. The Greeks were victorious, and this ended the attempt of the great king of Persia to overpower the little country of Greece.


Xerxes prepares to invade Greece. — The crossing of the Hellespont. — Herodotus. — Leonidas commands the Greek forces. — Thermopylæ. — The inscription on the rocks. — The destruction of Athens. — The advice of the oracle. — Themistocles tricks the Persians. — Ostracism. — The battle of Salamis.

Pericles And His Age

After the Persians had been driven away from Greece, the Athenians returned to their city. It was in ruins; but they were so jubilant over their victories that they hardly thought of their losses. They rebuilt their homes, and then they began to rebuild the city walls. The Spartans were not pleased. They were willing that Athens should be almost as strong as Sparta, but not quite. They sent messengers to suggest that it was not well to wall in the city; for if the Persians should ever succeed in capturing it, the walls would make a strong shelter for them. But the Athenians only worked the faster; and before long the walls had risen so high that they could be as independent as they pleased.

The Athenians were then divided into two parties. One thought it best to keep on good terms with Sparta; the other believed that, no matter how hard they tried, Sparta would never be really friendly; and this party declared that the wisest course was to make Athens as strong as possible, and then Sparta might be friendly or unfriendly as she liked. The leader of this second party was Per'i-cles. He was calm and sensible, and when he spoke to the people, he was so reasonable and so eloquent that the Athenians were easily persuaded to follow his advice. Athens was an inland city, four miles from her seaport, Pi-ræ'us. Pericles reminded the citizens that, although Athens was strong and Piraeus was strong, yet an enemy might come in between and shut the city from her port. He advised them to build two parallel walls from Athens to Piraeus. This was done. These walls were sixty feet high, and so wide that two chariots could drive abreast on them.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


Next, Pericles induced the Spartans to make a treaty of peace that was to last for thirty years. He had made Athens strong, and now he was free to carry out his plan of making her the most beautiful city in the world. The Athenians loved everything beautiful, and they were ready to fall in with his wishes. It was nothing new to them to have handsome buildings and noble statues; but Pericles planned to build on the A-crop'o-lis a group of temples that should be more magnificent than anything the world had ever seen. The noblest of them all was the Par'the-non, or temple of A-the'ne. This was of pure white marble, with long rows of columns around it. Three styles of columns were used by the Greeks. On was the Co-rin'thi-an. The capital, or heading, of this looks as if the top of the column were surrounded with a cluster of marble leaves. The second style was the I-on'ic, whose capital is carved into two coils a little like snail shells. The third style was the Dor'ic, which has a plain, solid capital. The Corinthian and Ionic are beautiful, but the Doric looks strong and dignified; and therefore the Doric was chosen for Parthenon. A frieze, or band of sculpture, ran around the whole building. This showed the famous procession which took place every four years to present to the statue of Athene a new pep'lum, or robe. This robe was exquisitely embroidered by maidens from the noblest families in Athens. The statue was thirty-nine feet high. It was wrought of ivory and gold, and the pupils of the eyes were probably made of jewels. Another of the buildings on the Acropolis was the E-rech'the-um, which was sacred to Athene and Poseidon. Out under the open sky stood a second statue of Athene; and this was made of bronze captured from the Persians at Marathon.



Pericles intrusted this work to the artist Phid'i-as, and he could not have made a better choice, for from that day to this, people have never ceased to discover new beauties in the Parthenon. Phidias was so anxious to make everything as perfect as possible that when people came to see his work, he used to stand just out of sight and listen to what was said. If any one discovered a fault, he did not rest until he had corrected it.

theatre of Dionysus


Pericles also improved the theatre of Di-o-ny'sus. A Greek theatre was not a covered building, but consisted of many rows of stone seats rising up the side of a hill. At the base of the hill was a level space where the actors stood. Some of the plays were tragedies. These were serious and grave. They were most frequently about the gods or the noble deeds of the early Greeks. Others were merry comedies which made fun of the whims and fancies of the day. The tragedies taught the listeners to be religious and patriotic, and the comedies made them think about what was going on around them. Both were so valuable to the people that Pericles thought no one ought to be kept away by poverty. Therefore he brought it about that the state should pay the admittance fee. Twice a year twelve plays were acted, and a prize was given to the author whose work was counted best. Thirteen times it was presented to the poet Æs'chy-lus. He was soldier as well as poet, and had fought bravely at Marathon and Salamis. Another poet was Soph'o-cles. The Athenians liked his plays because they were not quite so formal and his characters seemed more like real people. The third of the great tragic poets was Eu-rip'i-des. His plays were lighter than those of Sophocles, and were more like scenes in everyday life.

The greatest writer of comedy was Ar-is-toph'a-nes. He amused himself by making fun of his fellow citizens in a witty, good humored fashion which was vastly entertaining to them. The Athenians thought that to go to court and listen to lawsuits was the finest amusement in the world; and in Aristophanes's play "The Birds," he takes for chief characters two Athenians who are so tired of lawsuits that they have fled from men to the birds.

Herodotus, who gave so vivid a description of the crossing of the Hellespont by the forces of Xerxes, lived in the time of Pericles. So did another famous historian named Thu-cyd'i-des. Herodotus was a born story-teller; but Thucydides writes so simply and clearly that he is always interesting.

Pericles made some important changes in the laws. He believed that all citizens ought to have the same right to hold office. But as a poor man could not afford to leave his work in order to serve as a magistrate, he persuaded the Athenians to pass laws to give salaries to officeholders. More than this, if the men went to the meetings of the general assembly, they were paid; and if they served as jurymen, they were paid. Sometimes hundreds of jurymen sat on a single case. Soldiers had never received any wages before this time; they had defended their country as they would have defended their own houses; but now soldiers, too, were paid for their services. Indeed, in one way or another, a very large number of the citizens were paid by the state for doing what the Greeks had before this thought was only their duty. The years between 445 B.C. and 431 B.C. are known as the Age of Pericles. Athens was then the strongest of the states of Greece and the most beautiful. She had a protecting wall seven miles in length; she had the most powerful navy of the time, and the city was the richest in the world in superb temples and marvelous statues.

The Age of Pericles was a happy time for the citizens. With so much building going on, there was enough to do for workmen of all kinds; and if a man could work in gold, brass, stone, or wood, he was sure of good wages. There were ships enough for commerce, and there was commerce enough for the ships. The Athenians knew how to make all sorts of earthenware; they did wonderfully fine work in metal; and other countries were eager to trade with them.



The homes of the Athenians were comfortable, but very simple. The house was usually built around an open court, and into this all the rooms opened. The Greeks lived so much in the open air that they looked upon a house as being chiefly a shelter from stormy weather and a place for their property. Their furnishings were not expensive, but the chairs and couches and bowls and jars were sure to be of graceful form and color; for the Athenians were such lovers of beauty that anything ugly really made them uncomfortable. The children had tops and kites and carts and swings just like the children of to-day. The little girls learned at home to read and write and care for a house; but the boys were sent to school. Greek parents would not allow a boy to go to school alone, but always sent with him a slave called a pedagogue to see that he behaved properly on the street. The boy was taught to read clearly and well. He learned to write with a stylus, or pointed piece of metal or bone, on a tablet covered with wax. When his tablet was covered, the wax could be smoothed, and then it was ready for the next day's work. Boys wrote a great deal from dictation, and often this dictation was taken from the Iliad or the Odyssey. They learned to reckon, to sing, to play on the lyre, and perhaps to draw. They must learn to throw the discus, to wrestle, to leap, and to run. No one expected that all the boys would become champion athletes, but it was looked upon as disgrace for a boy not to be taught to carry himself well and use his muscles properly.

The peace which Pericles had arranged with Sparta lasted for only fifteen years. Then war broke out. Pericles was managing the defense of Athens with the greatest wisdom; but the plague came down upon the city, and soon the great Athenian lay dying. The friends about his bedside were talking of his victories, when he suddenly opened his eyes and said, "Many other generals have performed the like; but you take no notice of the most honorable part of my character, that no Athenian through my means ever put on mourning."


Athens is rebuilt. — Pericles persuades the Athenians to build walls to Piraeus. — The Parthenon. — The three styles of columns. —The statues of Athene. — The Erechtheum. — Phidias. — The Creek theatre. — Æschylus. — Sophocles. — Euripides. — Aristophanes. — Herodotus. — Thucydides. — The changes in the laws. — The happiness of the Age of Pericles. — The Athenian homes. — How children were brought up and taught. — The death of Pericles.

Two Philosophers, Socrates And Plato

About a century before the Age of Pericles, some one asked a very wise man, "What is a philosopher?" He replied: "At the games, some try to win glory, some buy and sell for money, and some watch what the others do. So it is in life; and philosophers are those who watch, who study nature, and search for wisdom." Now during the time of Pericles a young man lived in Athens who was to become famous as a philosopher, though perhaps no one thought so at the time. His father was a sculptor. The son followed the same occupation, and probably worked with hammer and chisel upon some of the statues that were making Athens beautiful.

This young man, whose name was Soc'ra-tes, studied with some of the teachers of the time; but he was not satisfied with their teaching, and he made up his mind that the best way for him to find out what was true was to think for himself. One of his conclusions was that, as the gods needed nothing; so the man who needed least was in that respect most like them. Therefore he trained himself to live on coarse and scanty food; he learned to bear heat and cold; and even when he served in the army and had to march over ice and snow, he did not give up his habit of going barefooted.



Socrates was not handsome. He had a flat nose, thick lips, and prominent eyes. He became bald early in life. He walked awkwardly, and used to astonish people by sometimes standing still for hours when he wanted to think out something. On the other hand, he had a beautiful voice, he was bright and witty and brave and kindhearted. As he grew older, he used to spend the whole day wherever people were to be found. He went to the market place, to the workshops, and to the porticoes where the Athenians were accustomed to walk up and down and talk together. He was ready to talk with any one, rich or poor, old or young, and to teach them what he believed to be right and true. His way of doing this was by asking questions and so making them think for themselves. For instance, his pupil Pla'to represents him as having a talk with a boy named Ly'sis. "Of course your father and mother love you and wish you to be happy?" he asked. "Certainly," replied the boy. "Is a slave happy, who is not allowed to do what he likes?" "No." "Then your parents, wishing you to be happy, let you do as you choose? Would your father let you drive his chariot in a race?" "Surely not," said Lysis. "But he lets a hired servant drive it and even pays him for so doing," Socrates continued. "Does he care more for this man than for you?" "No, he does not." "As your mother wishes you to be happy, of course she lets you do as you like when you are with her," said the philosopher. "She never hinders you from touching her loom or shuttle when she is weaving, does she?" Lysis laughed and replied, "She not only hinders me, but I should be beaten if I touched them." "When you take the lyre, do your parents hinder you from tightening and loosening any string that you please? How is this?" "I think it is because I know the one, but not the other," the boy replied thoughtfully. "So it is," said Socrates, "and all persons will trust us in those things wherein they have found us wise."

This was the philosopher's manner of teaching an honest boy; but if a man was not sincere, Socrates would tangle him up with his questions until the man had said that sickness and health, right and wrong, and black and white were the same things. He prayed and offered sacrifices to the gods as the laws required; but he believed that there was one God over all, and that to be honest and good was better than sacrifices. He taught his followers to say this prayer: "Father Ju'pi-ter, give us all good, whether we ask it or not; and avert from us all evil, though we do not pray thee so to do. Bless all our good actions, and reward them with success and happiness."

Socrates had made many enemies. The rulers hated him because he declared, among other remarks of the sort, that to govern a state was far more difficult than to steer a vessel; but that, although no one would attempt to steer a vessel without training, every one thought himself fit to govern a state. He was accused of preaching new gods and of giving false teaching to the young and was condemned to die. He was perfectly calm and serene. He told his judges that it was a gain to him to die; but that it was unjust for them to put him to death, and therefore they would suffer for it. He would not allow his family to come before them to plead for his life, and he would not escape when his friends offered to open the way.



It was thirty days from the time that he was sentenced until his death. He spent much of this time in talking with his pupils. One of those whom he loved best was Plato; and Plato afterwards wrote an account of the last days of his master. Socrates said that his death was only going "to some happy state of the blessed." He was asked in what manner he wished to be buried; and he replied with a smile, "Just as you please, if only you can catch me." He was to die by poison. When the cup was brought, he drank it as calmly as if it had been wine, and he comforted his disciples, who were weeping around him. At the last, he called to one of the young men, "Cri'to, we owe a cock to Æs-cu-la'pi-us; pay it, therefore, and do not neglect it." Æsculapius was the god to whom a man who was grateful for his recovery from illness made a sacrifice; and Socrates was so sure of a happier life to come that he felt as if death was passing from sickness to health. It is no wonder that his pupil Plato said, "This man was the best of all of his time that we have known, and, moreover, the most wise and just."

After the death of Socrates, Plato traveled from one country to another. He studied the people, the laws, and the customs. If there were philosophers in the land, he learned all that he could from them. "Plato, how long do you intend to remain a student?" one of his friends asked. He replied, "As long as I am not ashamed to grow wiser and better." In the course of his travels, he went to Syr'a-cuse, on the island of Sic'i-ly. The ruler of Syracuse was Di-o-nys'i-us. He was called a tyrant, which meant that he had seized the throne unlawfully. Dionysius himself wrote poems, and he was always glad to welcome philosophers and scholars to his court. Unluckily, he and Plato fell into an argument. Plato not only got the better bf it, but dared to make some bold remarks about tyrants. Dionysius was so angry that he came near putting his honored guest to death. He did bribe some one to sell the philosopher as a slave on his homeward journey. This was done, but Plato's friends bought his freedom.

At length Plato returned to Athens. A little way outside of the city was a large public garden or park, along the Ce-phis'sus River. Here grew plane trees and olive trees. Here were temples and statues. This was called the Academy, in honor of one Ac-a-de'mus, who had left it to the city for gymnastics. Plato's father seems to have owned a piece of land near this park; and here Plato opened a school for all who chose to become learners. It took its name from the park and was known as the Academy. The most brilliant young men of the time were eager to come to the Academy to study with Plato. He discussed difficult questions with his students and he wrote on the deepest subjects, but with so much humor and sweetness that many people fancied him to be descended from Apollo, the god of eloquence. Long afterwards, Cic'e-ro, the greatest Roman orator, declared that if Jupiter were to speak Greek, he would use the language of Plato.

One of Plato's sayings was, "To conquer one's self is the highest wisdom." He not only taught self-control, but he practiced it. A friend came upon him one day unexpectedly and asked why he was holding his arm up as if to strike; "I am punishing a passionate man," Plato replied. It seemed that he had raised his arm to strike a disobedient slave; but had stopped because he found himself in a passion. It was a rare event for him to lose his self-control. Even when he was told that his enemies were spreading false stories about him, he did not fly into a fit of anger; he only said quietly, "I will live so that none will believe them." He was simple and friendly in his manner. There is a tradition that some strangers who met him at the O-lym'pi-an games were so pleased with him that they accepted gladly his invitation to visit him in Athens. When their visit was near its end, they said, "But will you not introduce us to your famous namesake, the philosopher Plato?" They were greatly surprised when their host replied quietly, "I am the person whom you wish to see."

When Plato died, he was buried in his garden. His followers raised altars and statues in his memory, and for many years the day of his birth was celebrated among them with rejoicing.


What is a philosopher? — Socrates and his habits. — His talk with Lysis. — His prayer to Jupiter. — His condemnation. — His last talks with his pupils and his death. — Plato visits Dionysius. — The Academy. — Plato punishes a passionate man. — His "famous namesake."

Demosthenes, The Famous Greek Orator

While Plato was traveling from country to country, a little boy named De-mos'the-nes was living in Athens. He was a very rich little boy, for his father had left him a large fortune. It did not do him much good, however, for his guardians were dishonest. They kept as much of the money as they dared, and spent no more on his education than was absolutely necessary. They gave him tutors; but they paid the tutors so little that they did not trouble themselves to see that the child learned anything. He was so slender and sickly that his mother did not urge him to study. So matters went on until he was in his sixteenth year. Then something happened. He heard his tutors talking of an important case which was to be tried in court and a famous orator who was to speak. They were planning to attend the trial, and Demosthenes begged permission to go with them. At length they agreed to take him. He listened to every word. He saw how the great orator moved the people to think as he himself thought, and he heard their praises of what he had said.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


Demosthenes woke up. He was no longer a listless boy; he was a boy with a purpose, for he meant to become an orator. He set to work with all his might to study oratory; and in two years he was arguing a case before the courts. It was a case that he knew all about, for it was the stealing of his property by his dishonest guardians. Of course a boy of not yet eighteen was not allowed to practice law, but he had a legal right to plead in a matter concerning his own private affairs. Demosthenes won his case. He was greatly praised, and he felt as if he was well on the road to becoming a successful orator. It was the most natural thing in the world that he should be eager to "go into politics," or "take some part in the government," as the Athenians put it; and in three or four years he ventured to make a speech in the assembly of the people.

This speech was a complete failure. When he was pleading his own case before the court, his chief business was to state facts; and he was so young that people overlooked his faults. Now, however, when he appeared before them, not as a boy trying to gain his rights, but as an orator trying to bring them around to his way of thinking, it was quite a different matter. They laughed at him, they jeered and they hooted. He lost himself entirely; he mixed up his sentences and confused his arguments. He stammered; his voice was weak, and he was continually losing his breath. He hunched up one shoulder, and he threw himself about in a most ludicrous fashion. It is no wonder that the people laughed; and it is no wonder that Demosthenes hurried away from the assembly and strode down to the Piræus utterly discouraged. Fortunately for him, he met there an old man who said to him kindly, "Your manner is much like that of Pericles, but you lose yourself because you are afraid of your audience and because you have not prepared your body for the hard labor of speaking."

Demosthenes went home. It was encouragement enough for a young speaker to be told that he was in any respect like Pericles; and he went to work more earnestly than ever. He wrote his orations with the utmost care and did his best—still they failed. An actor friend of his followed him as he left the assembly, and to him the disappointed young man opened his heart. "Why is it," he asked, "that though I work so hard on my orations, the people would rather listen to a drunken sailor or any other ignorant fellow than me?" "Won't you repeat to me some passage in Euripides or Sophocles?" asked his friend, and he obeyed. Then the actor repeated the same passage; but he did it with such dignity, such appropriate gestures, and such appreciation of every thought that it became a different thing.

Demosthenes's two friends had helped him more than his teachers. He understood now that he must not only compose his orations with care, but that he must deliver them well, and that he must get rid of his awkward ways. He set to work again with fresh courage. He built himself an underground study, and there he used to practice his orations over and over again. For fear he should be tempted to go out, he would sometimes shave one side of his head, so that he could not appear on the street. He cured his disagreeable stammering by speaking with his mouth full of pebbles. He learned to control his voice by delivering speeches while running up a steep hillside; and he strengthened it to overpower the tumult of the people by making speeches to the ocean in the midst of the thunder of the waves. He hung a naked sword in such a way that if he hunched up his shoulder in the least, he would be pricked; and he practiced while standing before a mirror, that he might learn not to twist and distort his face. He wrote his orations ten or twelve times; and at last he became an orator, one of the greatest that ever lived.



There was need in Athens of a great orator, for King Phil'ip of Mac-e-do'ni-a had set his mind upon conquering Greece; and no one but Demosthenes seemed able to perceive what he was about. Demosthenes did his best to arouse the Athenians against the king. He would not admit that Philip had any virtues. Some one once spoke in the king's praise because he had eloquence, because he had beauty, and because he could drink a large quantity of liquor without being drunk. Demosthenes retorted, "The first is the quality of a public teacher, the second of a woman, and the third of a sponge." Philip was exceedingly wily. When the little states were inclined to disagree, he would send money to some of them in order to keep up the quarrel and so to weaken Greece. Demosthenes delivered most bitter orations against him. These were called "Phi-lip'pics," and ever since that day a particularly savage speech against any one has been called a philippic.

If all this had occurred in the earlier days of Athens, the state would have been aroused at a word; but the Athenians had now learned to enjoy luxury. They did not like to give up their comfortable homes for the hardships and danger of the field of battle; and it did not seem possible to make them understand their danger. Demosthenes spoke again and again. He went about from state to state, and after a while the Greeks began to see their peril and were ready to oppose the Macedonian king. But they had waited too long. Philip had now actually taken a town near Athens and had fortified it. The Greeks were as thunderstruck as if they had never dreamed of such a possibility. No one knew what to advise. People seemed to have lost their wits. They were ready then to follow the orator's advice, and they went forth to battle. Philip won the day, and the king of Macedonia was also ruler of Greece.

When the people of Athens wished to show to a man the greatest honor in their power, it was their custom to present him with a crown of gold. The Athenians realized now that Demosthenes had been in the right; and they proposed to give him such a crown. Another orator, Æs'chi-nes, opposed the gift. Both of them made eloquent speeches, which were listened to by an immense audience. That of Demosthenes was his famous "Oration for the Crown." It was such a magnificent oration that, although the judges belonged to the Macedonian party, they were swept off their feet by his eloquence, and more than four fifths of them voted in his favor. If an accuser did not receive at least one fifth of the votes, he was exiled. Æschines, therefore, left Athens at once.

Some time later, Demosthenes, too, was exiled on the charge of accepting a bribe and was also fined fifty talents, or about sixty thousand dollars. He made his home on an island; and it was said that every time he looked across the water to his beloved Attica, his eyes filled with tears. Exile as he was, he was ever trying to do something for his country. In one of the Grecian cities, an orator spoke eloquently in favor of the Macedonians, and was followed by Demosthenes, who spoke for the Greeks. The milk of the ass was used in sickness, and the first orator declared that just as the bringing of asses' milk into a house was a sign of illness, so any city which an Athenian embassy entered must be in a sick and decaying condition. When it came Demosthenes's turn to speak, he retorted, "As the milk of an ass never enters a house save to cure the sick, so the Athenians never enter but to remedy some disorder." The Athenians were so pleased with this retort that they voted to bring Demosthenes home again. They sent a vessel for him, and when he landed at Piræus, the whole town of Athens was there to receive him. As to his fine, it was the custom, when a sacrifice was to be made to Jupiter, to pay the persons who prepared the altars, and the people straightway appointed Demosthenes to this position and ordered him to be paid fifty talents for his trouble.



Demosthenes had not been in Athens long before news came that Alexander, son of Philip, was dead. Then was the time to rebel, thought the orator; and he set about his old work of arousing Greece against Macedonia. The revolt was a failure. The governor of Macedonia was coming swiftly to Athens, and Demosthenes fled. The officers of the governor pursued him, and he took refuge in a temple of Poseidon on a little island. His enemies pressed into the temple. It was said that in the battle with Philip long before this Demosthenes had left his post and fled; but now when certain death was before him he was calm and quiet. "Give me but a few minutes," he said, "that I may write a letter." He took papyrus or parchment and sat for some time biting the end of his pen as if he were thinking. Then he threw a fold of his mantle over his head. The soldiers who were watching laughed at him and called him a coward. But in the end of the reed that he had been biting there was a powerful poison; and soon the great orator lay dead at the foot of the altar. One of his servants refused to believe that he had died of poison and declared that the favor of the gods had given him an easy and speedy death, and so had snatched him from the cruelty of the Macedonians.


The early life of Demosthenes. — He determines to become an Orator. — His first case. — His failures and the advice of his friends. — His struggles to succeed. — The "Philippics." — The "Oration for the Crown." — The exile and recall of Demosthenes. — He arouses a rebellion. — His suicide.

Alexander The Great

King philip of Macedonia, who was so hated and feared by Demosthenes, found himself a very happy man one day. Three messengers came to him with tidings. The first said, "O king, your army has won a great victory." The second said, "Your horse has taken a prize at the Olympian games." The third said, "You have a baby son." The baby was named Al-ex-and'er. If the stories told of his boyhood are true, he must have been remarkable even as a small boy. When he was only a child, some ambassadors from Persia came to the court of Macedonia. Philip was away, and they were received by the little prince. Imagine their surprise when the child began to ask the kind of questions about their country that a grown man and sovereign would have been likely to ask. He wanted to know about the roads and the distances between places. "What sort of man is your king?" he questioned. "How does he treat his enemies? Why is Persia strong? Is it because she has much gold or a large army?" It is no wonder that the ambassadors gazed at him and then looked at each other in amazement; for they had never before seen a prince like this one.

Another story that is told of the boy is of his taming the horse Bu-ceph'a-lus. It was so vicious that the grooms could do nothing with it, and Philip angrily ordered it taken away. The boy Alexander cried, "What a horse they are losing for want of skill and spirit to manage him!" "Young man," retorted his father, "you find fault with your elders as if you could manage the horse better." "And I certainly could," the boy boldly declared. The king forgot his anger and said, "If you fail, what forfeit will you pay?" "The price of the horse," replied the boy stoutly. Everybody laughed; but Alexander was neither boasting nor jesting. He had noticed something that not one of the others had marked, namely, that the horse was annoyed by his own shadow, which was constantly moving before him. He took firm hold of the bridle and turned the horse toward the sun, he spoke gently and stroked him with his hand, then he leaped upon his back. He let the horse gallop about as much as he chose, then he rode quietly up to his father. Philip did not laugh at him then, but kissed him and said, "Seek another empire, my son, for that which I shall leave you is not worthy of you."

Philip saw that a boy like Alexander would not be satisfied with any ordinary teachers, and he asked Aristotle, a famous philosopher who had long been a pupil of Plato, to come to his court to instruct his son. For a schoolroom, Philip gave them a large garden with many trees and shady, winding paths, much like Plato's garden on the Cephissus. Alexander was an eager student. He wanted to learn everything, but he was especially fond of the Iliad. When he was sixteen, Philip went to war and left his son in charge of the kingdom. One of the subject tribes thought this was an excellent time to rebel; but the young regent called out his troops, drove the tribe out of their city, filled the place with new settlers, and gave it the name of Alexandropolis.



Alexander was only twenty years old when Philip died. "Now is the time to free ourselves from Macedonia," thought a tribe of wild mountaineers. So thought also Demosthenes and the Greeks. But "the boy," as Demosthenes called him, first marched against the mountaineers, then against Greece, and conquered both. The mountaineers had heavy wagons loaded with stone ready to roll down upon Alexander and his men in a narrow pass through which they would have to advance. The quick-witted young commander bade his men lie down on the ground with their shields, over their heads. The wagons rolled over them as over a well-paved road. Greece, too, was promptly subdued.

The young ruler was a very wise man. He was bent upon conquering Persia, and he asked the Greeks to help him. Even though they themselves had been overcome by the Macedonian, they were ready to march against their old enemy, the Persians, with so excellent a general as leader. He was more sensible than Xerxes, for he did not make the mistake of taking an army too large to feed and move; but the thirty-five or thirty-eight thousand men whom he did take were perfectly trained and finely equipped. Alexander was mounted on Bucephalus, the very horse that he had tamed a few years earlier. He led his troops across the Hellespont; and now for the moment he was not a soldier, but an earnest lover of real poetry; and he went first of all to visit Troy. There he offered up sacrifices to Athene and to the spirits of the heroes of the Trojan War. He hung a wreath on the pillar of Achilles's tomb, for he had persuaded himself long before this that he was descended from the Grecian hero.

Darius III, king of Persia, knew of course what this bold young man was attempting; and not far from the Hellespont, his troops were drawn up on the bank of a little river called Gra-ni'cus. "It is unlucky to begin war in the month Dai'si-us" (June), said the Macedonian officers to Alexander. "I have changed its name," declared their king; "it is no longer Daisius, but the Second Ar-te-mis'i-us" (May). They thought it too late in the day to cross; but Alexander plunged into the river, and the troops followed the two white plumes on his crest. The water was rough, the banks were slimy, and at the top were the masses of Persians, drawn up in line of battle; but Alexander won the day. He was generous with the spoils. He had brazen statues made of the men who had fallen, he gave lavish gifts to the Greeks, especially to the Athenians, and he sent home to his mother the purple hangings and the gold and silver dishes found in the tents of the Persians.



Alexander marched on into Phryg'i-a, taking cities as he went. In Gor'di-um he went to see the famous "Gordian knot," made of cords cut from the bark of a tree. There was an ancient prophecy that he who could untie it would conquer the world. Alexander drew his sword and cut it. Then he moved on in a zigzag course from city to city. At Is'sus, he met the Persian forces again. It did not seem possible for them to learn that too many men in a narrow plain were worse than too few; and soon the Persian king and his troops were fleeing for their lives. In the tent of Darius there were quantities of gold and silver and the richest of furnishings. Alexander amused himself by looking at the bath of the Persian monarch with its golden basins, vials, boxes, and vases, and by smelling of the various perfumes. Then he said to his friends, "It seems that to be a king was this!" He was far more interested in a beautiful golden casket that came from the spoils of the Persians. "Darius," he said, "used to keep his ointments in this casket; but I, who have no time to anoint myself, will convert it to a nobler use"; and in it he laid the copy of the Iliad which he was accustomed to place under his pillow when he slept.

After the Macedonian rule was well established in Asia Minor, Alexander set out for Egypt. His welcome in Egypt was somewhat different from that which he had received at the Granicus; for the Egyptians had been conquered by the Persians, and they were delighted with the hope of being free from Persian rule. Near the mouth of the Nile he noticed a broad tongue of land with a lake on one side and a deep, wide harbor on the other. "That is an excellent site for a city," he said, and he ordered the walls to be marked out at once. The soil was black, and the lines were marked out by sprinkling flour. These lines curved around the harbor, and from their ends straight lines were drawn to the shore. Alexander was pleased to see that the figure was in the shape of a Macedonian cloak. So it was that the city of Alexandria was founded.

After the battle of Issus, the wife and daughter of Darius had been captured. Darius now wrote to Alexander, offering him ten thousand talents, all the lands west of the Euphrates, and the hand of his daughter in marriage, if he would make a treaty of friendship with him. Par-me'ni-o, one of the Macedonian generals, said, "If I were Alexander, I would accept this." "So would I," said Alexander, "if I were Parmenio." He had treated Darius's family with the utmost courtesy and kindness, but about this time the queen was taken ill and died. He gave her a most magnificent funeral; and when Darius heard of it, he prayed to the gods that if his kingdom must fall, none but Alexander should sit upon its throne.

Asiatic Campaigns


Darius brought together all his forces, elephants, war-chariots with sharp swords stretching out from the yoke and the hubs of the wheels, and thousands upon thousands of men from wherever he could get them. He even hired some soldiers from Greece. A terrible battle was fought at Arbela, and Alexander was the victor. This battle decided the question who should rule Persia. At the capitals of the kingdom, Babylon and Su'sa, Alexander found enormous amounts of money. What he wanted, however, was to capture the Persian king; but there was a conspiracy among Darius's generals, and he was slain by his own men. "Tell Alexander I gave him my hand," said Darius to a Macedonian soldier who found him where his men had left him for dead.

Alexander had conquered Persia. He had more power and more wealth than any one man had ever held before; but he cared less for power and wealth than for the pleasure of getting them. He seemed to be seized with a perfect frenzy for conquest. He pushed on and on, north, south, north again, then south to the mouth of the Indus, conquering as he marched. Wherever he went, he founded cities. Eighteen of them he named for himself, and one for Bucephalus. He planned to conquer Arabia, then, turning westward, to overpower northern Africa, Italy, and Spain, in short, to become ruler of the whole world. He returned to Babylon to meet fresh troops. Suddenly he was taken ill and died. No one could govern such an empire, and after many years of fighting it was divided into three parts, to be ruled by three of his generals. But a new power was growing up in the west, the Roman; and Alexander's conquests in Asia finally fell into the hands of Rome.


The three messengers. — Alexander receives the ambassadors. — He tames Bucephalus. — He is taught by Aristotle. — He quells rebellions. — He crosses the Hellespont, visits the site of Troy, wins the battle of the Granicus. — He cuts the Gordian knot. — Meets the Persians at Issus. — The casket. — He founds Alexandria. — His reply to Parmenio. — His victory at Arbela. — His further conquests and his death.

How Rome Was Founded

Just as the story of Greece begins with the tales told by the Greek poet Homer, so the story of Rome begins with the stories told by the Latin poet Vir'gil. Virgil's poem is called the Æ-ne'id, because the hero is Æ-ne'as, one of the brave warriors of Troy. Virgil takes up the tale of the Trojan War very nearly where Homer leaves it. The city was finally captured by a stratagem. The Greeks sailed away until they were out of sight behind an island, and the Trojans thought that they had gone home. They left behind them a monstrous wooden horse just outside the city. While the Trojans were wondering what it could be, a ragged, unkempt Greek was brought in as a captive. He told them that the horse was built as a offering to the goddess A-the'ne, or Mi-ner'va, but that if it was only brought within the walls, it would protect the town instead of the makers. The Trojans never guessed that the whole thing was a trick. They made a gap in the wall and pulled in the horse. That night, when all were asleep, the Greeks who were hidden in the horse crept out, and Troy was soon in the hands of its enemies. Æneas fought until the whole town was in flames and there was no longer any hope in fighting. Then he took his aged father An-chi'ses on his shoulders and with his wife and their little son As-ca'ni-us, he fled. In the confusion his wife was lost, and although he ran fearlessly through the burning city, calling her name, she was gone. At length her spirit appeared to him and told him not to mourn, for she had been taken away by the will of the gods, to preserve her both from long years of wandering and from being a slave to the Greeks.



Outside the town Æneas met many other Trojans who had also fled from the Greeks. They decided to build boats, and with him for their leader to search for some land where they might make new homes for themselves. They worked away on the vessels, and when spring had come, they bade farewell, with many tears, to the place where Troy had stood, and sailed forth upon the sea, not knowing where the fates would grant them a home.

Thrace was only a little way off, so the wanderers first went there and prepared to sacrifice a bull. Æneas began to pull up a little bush in order to cover his altar with green leaves, and to his horror the broken twigs dropped blood. A voice came from the ground, the voice of a murdered kinsman, bidding him flee from the accursed land.

Just as soon as the sea was calm, they hastened away from Thrace. They next landed on the little island of De'los, for here was the oracle of Apollo, and they hoped it would tell them where to go. "Seek your ancient mother," said the oracle; but this was not very helpful, for no one knew what was meant. At last Anchises said he remembered hearing that the Trojans first came from Crete; so to Crete they went. They began to build a city and marked off places for their homes. They ploughed the land and planted their fields. But sickness came upon them, and the fields yielded no crops. What to do next they did not know; but the images of the household gods which Æneas had brought with him spoke to him one night in a dream and told him that a mistake had been made, that the real founder of the race was Dar'da-nus, and that he had come from Hes-pe'ri-a, or Italy.

There was nothing for them to do but to set out for Italy; and now they met troubles upon troubles. At one island where they landed and spread a meal for themselves, a flock of Harpies, horrible birds with the faces of maidens ghastly pale and drawn with hunger, swooped down upon them, and could hardly be driven away by their swords. When they came to Sicily, they had a long night of terror, for they heard the thunders and saw the fires of Mount Æt'na. In the morning a wretched man called to them from the shore. He was thin and haggard, his beard was rough and tangled, and his clothes were held together with thorns. He admitted that he was a Greek and that he had fought at Troy; but he pleaded that they would take him away. "Throw me into the deep if you will," he said. "I shall at least have met my death at the hands of men and not monsters." Then he told them that he had been with Odysseus or Ulysses, as the Romans called him, and had been left behind in this country of the horrible Cyclopes. Just as he finished his story, they saw the Cyclops whom Ulysses had blinded come feeling his way downhill with a pine tree for a staff. He heard their voices and waded out into the sea in pursuit, raising such a bellowing that land and water trembled with the clamor. The dreadful company of giants rushed down to the shore, but the Trojans had escaped.

Æneas sailed safely between Scylla and Charybdis and was now close to Italy. He would soon have been in his destined home, had not Ju'no, who hated the Trojans, interfered and commanded Æ'o-lus to send out the storm winds to drive them away. They were thrown upon the shores of Car'thage, which was ruled by Queen Di'do. She promptly fell in love with Æneas; and he seemed to be perfectly willing to forget Italy and remain in her city. Jupiter, however, bade him continue his journey; and at last, after his many wanderings, he was at the mouth of the Ti'ber. Here dwelt La-ti'nus, ruler of the country. His beautiful daughter La-vin'i-a was promised in marriage to Tur'nus, king of a neighboring people; but a dream had come to Latinus to warn him to give her to a stranger from a foreign land, and he decided that Æneas must be the stranger. Of course there was war between Turnus and Æneas. The Trojans won, and Turnus was slain. This is the end of the Æneid, but it is only the beginning of the story of Rome. Æneas founded a city called La-vin'i-um; but when his son Ascanius became ruler, Lavinium proved to be far too small for the people who wished to live in it. It was an easy matter to settle a town in those days, and Ascanius founded another on a long ridge of a neighboring hill. He named this Al'ba Lon'ga, or the long white city.

When Alba Longa was three centuries old, Nu'mi-tor, a descendant of Ascanius, was reigning. His brother A-mu'li-us contrived to get possession of the kingdom and drove Numitor from the throne. He killed Numitor's son, and he disposed of the daughter, Rhe'a Syl'vi-a, by making her a Vestal virgin, that is, one of the maidens who guarded the ever-burning lamp in the temple of the goddess Ves'ta. He thought that everything was well arranged to give him peace and quiet on the throne; but one day he was told that Rhea Sylvia was the mother of twin sons whose father was the war god Mars. These children were heirs to the throne, and therefore Amulius got them and their mother out of the way as soon as possible. He put the mother to death and ordered one of his men to throw the boys into the river Tiber.

Romulus and Remus


Perhaps the man did not want to destroy the babies. At any rate, he seems not to have thrown them into the river, but to have left them in one of the pools along the bank which were made by the high water. When the river subsided, there were the children, safe and sound, on dry land, but crying with hunger. A she-wolf heard them, bore them to her den, and nursed them as if they had been her own cubs. By and by a shepherd named Faus'tu-lus came upon them, took them away from the den, and carried them home to his wife.

The children were called Rom'u-lus and Rem'us. They grew up supposing that they were the sons of Faustulus; but the shepherd had discovered in the mean time who they were, and when they were old enough, he told them that they were the grandsons of Numitor, and that the throne belonged to him, and after him to them. Then the two young men called together their shepherd friends, drove Amulius away from his stolen throne, and put him to death. Numitor was again made ruler of the kingdom.

But the two brothers had no idea of simply waiting for their grandfather to die, and they set to work to build a city near the place where they had been thrown into the water and form a kingdom for themselves. So far everything had gone on smoothly, but now there was trouble between them. Of course it was proper that the city should be named for the elder brother, and they were twins! Surely this was a question for the gods to decide; and they agreed to watch for some sign in the heavens. Romulus climbed the Pal'a-tine Hill and Remus the Av'en-tine, and there they watched. All day they sat gazing at the sky; but the gods gave no sign. All night they watched; but they were none the wiser. When the sun rose on the following morning, Remus and his followers gave shouts of delight, for he had seen six vultures fly across his part of the sky. But before they were done shouting, Romulus and his friends cried out joyfully, for Romulus had seen twelve vultures!

The question of naming the city was no nearer a settlement than at first; for it would, indeed, take a very wise man to decide which ought to count more, to see six birds first or twelve birds second. It seems to have been decided in some way in favor of Romulus, and he began to build a wall for the city. Apparently, neither of the brothers felt very good-natured; for when the wall was up a little way, Remus jumped over it and said scornfully, "That is what your enemies will do." "And this is the way they will fare," Romulus retorted, and struck his brother angrily. For this act he grieved all his life long, for Remus fell dead at his feet.

More people were needed for the new town of Rome. It was not hard to get men, for Romulus invited every one to come, even those who had fled from justice or were outcast for any other reason. They were all welcomed and all protected. It was a different matter to get women; for the tribes about them looked upon the Romans as a collection of rabble and outlaws and scorned the thought of allowing their daughters to marry such good-for-nothings. They had so much curiosity, however, about the new city that when Romulus sent them cordial invitations to attend some games in honor of Nep'tune, they came in full numbers, and the Sa'bines even brought their wives and daughters with them. The strangers were treated with the utmost courtesy, and soon they forgot everything but the games. Suddenly the Romans rushed upon them and seized the young women among their guests and carried them away to become their wives.

The Sabines meant to take some terrible vengeance upon the Romans, but they waited until they were sure they could succeed. Then they advanced upon Rome. Their victory would be certain if they could only capture the citadel, or fortress which protected the city. "What will you take," they asked Tarpeia, the daughter of the Roman commander, "to let us in?" "Give me what you wear on your left arms," she replied eagerly. She meant their heavy golden bracelets; but on their left arms they also carried their shields, and these they threw upon the traitor and so crushed her to death.

The Sabines were now within the city, and a terrible fight began between them and the Romans. But, if the Sabines had been surprised at the games of Neptune, they were thunderstruck now; for right into the midst of the battle ran the stolen women. The Romans had been very kind to them, and they had learned to like their new homes. They begged their husbands not to slay their fathers and brothers, and they begged their fathers and brothers not to slay their husbands. There was no sense in trying to avenge the wrongs of women who did not feel that they had been wronged; and the fighting stopped. The two tribes talked the matter over and became so friendly that they agreed to live together one nation.

Sabine War


These are the legends that have been handed down for many centuries about the founding of Rome. How much truth there is in them it is hard to tell; but the Roman poets and orators were never tired of referring to the tales; and in the magnificent temple of Jupiter which was afterwards built in Rome there was a large statue of the wolf and the twin brothers.


The capture of Troy. — Æneas flees to Thrace. — Delos. — Crete. — The Harpies. — The land of the Cyclopes. — Scylla and Charybdis. — Carthage. — Æneas reaches Italy. — He founds Lavinium. — Ascanius founds Alba Longa. — Amulius steals the throne. — Romulus and Remus are cast into the Tiber. — Their rescue and early life. — They restore the kingdom to Numitor. — Naming the city. — The quarrel. — The seizure of the Sabine women. — The falseness of Tarpeia. — The Sabine women stop the battle.

Cincinnatus, The Man From The Plough

The Romans dwelt on the plain of La'ti-um, and the Æ'qui-ans lived farther up among the hills. If the two peoples could have met face to face and fought an open battle, there is little doubt that the Romans would have won; but the mountaineers could easily slip down from their hiding places, burn the farmhouses, raid the cornfields, and be off again before the Romans were fully aware of what they were about. A treaty was made between the two peoples, and for a while there was peace. Then the Æquians began again their old tricks of burning and plundering. The Romans sent envoys to complain that they had not kept the treaty. The envoys climbed up among the hills to the summit of Mount Al'gi-dus, and there was the Æquian camp. Grac'chus, the commander, was sitting in his tent, which was pitched under a great oak tree. He well knew why the envoys had come; but he had been so successful that he was beginning to despise the Romans. He said scornfully, "I am busy with other matters, and I cannot hear you. You would better tell your message to the oak tree." Then one of the envoys burst out, "Yes, the sacred oak shall hear, and the gods shall hear how treacherously you have broken the peace; and they will avenge it, for you have broken the laws of gods and men."

When the envoys told the story in Rome of the insolence of Gracchus, the Roman consul Mi-nu'ci-us set off at once with his soldiers to overpower this treacherous foe. Gracchus was a skillful commander. He pretended to be retreating, and the Romans pursued. They were so angry and indignant that they hardly heeded where they were going; and before they realized it, the wily Æquians had led them into a long, narrow valley. The hills were in front and on both sides of them; and on these hills were the hardy mountaineers. Moreover, Gracchus sent some of his men around to close up the pass through which they had entered the valley. The mountains were bleak and desolate, and the valley was bare of food for either horses or men. Gracchus quietly waited. The Romans were trapped, and when they were hungry enough, they would surrender; there was no need of his doing anything.

Gracchus was a keen, shrewd soldier, but he did not know that before the Romans were completely shut in, five horsemen had slipped out and had galloped away to Rome as fast as their horses could carry them. They told the story of the terrible condition of the consul Minucius and his soldiers. The other consul was with his army some little distance from Rome. He was sent for in haste, and he came at full speed to consult with the senate and decide what was the best thing to do.

Roman in a toga


When the Romans were in great difficulties and some one must do something on the instant, they had a custom of choosing the man whom they thought wisest and naming him dictator. So long as the danger lasted, he could give what orders he chose, and even the highest magistrates must obey him. Now was certainly the time for a dictator. The consul and the senators talked together through the night. They agreed that the man who would be most likely to think of a way to help them was one Lu'ci-us Quin'ti-us, and they decided to make him dictator. Then the consul mounted his horse and hastened away so as to be with his army again before the sun should rise. This Lucius Quintius was called Cin-cin-na'tus, or the curly-haired. He was a man held in much respect in Rome, but some time before this he had left the city and gone to live on his little farm of four acres just across the Tiber. It is possible that he did this because of being obliged to pay a large fine for his son, who got into some political trouble; and it is possible that he merely wished to go away from the turmoil of the city into the quiet of the country. However that may be, he and his wife dwelt contentedly on their little farm. Cincinnatus was a patrician, that is, one of the nobles of Rome; but he was satisfied to till his own ground and live like any countryman.

On the morning after the meeting of the consul and the senate, Cincinnatus was at work in his field ploughing, when he saw some of the principal men of the city coming toward him. He gave them a friendly greeting; but he must have seen from their faces that business of moment was on foot, for he asked anxiously if any evil had befallen the state. Then one of the men spoke formally and said, "Listen to the commands of the senate, for we are its ambassadors." A message from the senate could not be delivered to a man in a tunic; so Cincinnatus called to his wife to bring him his toga. When he had put it on, the ambassadors told him what had happened, and that he had been appointed dictator. He left his plough in the furrow and went down to the bank of the Tiber. A boat was waiting to carry him across; and on the farther shore stood his three sons, his kinsmen, and nearly all the chief men of Rome. He was escorted up the street by twenty-four officers called lictors, each bearing a bundle of rods with an axe in its centre, to show that he had power to punish and even to inflict death if it was deserved.

Cincinnatus was a man who could think fast. He went straight to the forum and ordered every shop to be shut up and even the courts to be closed. Every man in Rome who was able to bear arms was commanded to take food for five days, and with that and twelve long sharp stakes to meet on the Cam'pus Mar'ti-us before sunset. The dictator had acted so promptly and the Romans had obeyed with such good will that as the sun went down, they were ready to set out, and before the night was half gone, they had come to Mount Algidus. He led his men entirely around the camp of Gracchus. Then he gave a signal; and at this signal every man shouted with all his might, then set to work to dig a ditch in front of him and drive down his twelve sharp stakes. The Æquians heard this shout, and they were alarmed, because it came from all sides, and they knew that they were surrounded. The consul and his men, shut up in the valley, heard it also. "It is the shout of the Romans," they cried, and they sent back a ringing answer. They burst out upon the enemy with fresh courage, and they fought so savagely that Gracchus had all he could do to oppose then. This gave Cincinnatus just the chance that he wanted; and in the morning Gracchus found his troops surrounded by a palisade, a ditch, and a line of valiant soldiers. There was nothing to do but to surrender and beg for mercy. Cincinnatus first ordered that Gracchus and the other chiefs should be brought to him in bonds. Then he set two spears upright in the ground and bound a third across their tops. The Æquians were forced to give up their arms and cloaks and all the spoil of their camp and march under this yoke, as it was called. This was the greatest shame that could befall an army; and the conquered mountaineers went home bowed down with disgrace.

Claudine Fork


The men who had been shut up in the valley could not do enough to show their gratitude to Cincinnatus. They voted to present him with a golden crown, and on the march back to Rome they were continually bursting out with shouts of "Hail, hail, our father and our protector!" The senate decreed that so brilliant a victory as this deserved a triumph, that is, a grand procession of the victors and their spoils; and so Cincinnatus and his soldiers entered the city in great glory. First came the Æquian chiefs, walking in their bonds, then the captured standards. After them rode Cincinnatus in his chariot, followed by his men, who were singing a song of triumph and displaying their loads of spoils from the camp and the conquered enemy. The citizens spread tables in front of their doors with meat and drink for the soldiers in great abundance, and the whole city was full of feasting and songs of rejoicing. Cincinnatus must have been happy in the knowledge that he had saved his fellow citizens and had brought honor and spoils to Rome; but as soon as he was free to go home again, he went quietly across the Tiber and probably set to work to finish his ploughing.


Trouble between Romans and Æquians. — The visit to the camp of Gracchus. — The entrapping of Minucius. — The anxiety in Rome. — Choosing a dictator. — Cincinnatus. — The coming of the ambassadors. — The orders of Cincinnatus. — The capture of the Æquians. — The honors shown to Cincinnatus.

Hannibal, Who Fought Against Rome

"Lay your hand upon the sacrifice," said Ha-mil'car to his nine-year-old son Han'ni-bal, "and swear that you will never be a friend to the Roman people." The little boy laid his hand upon the sacrifice and solemnly repeated the words, "I swear that I will never be a friend to the Roman people." Then he and his father and the soldiers left Carthage and sailed away to Spain.

This Carthage was where the old legends said that Æneas had landed on his way to make a new home for the Trojans in Italy. It had become a wealthy city, and so powerful that Rome feared it as a rival. There had already been one war between the two states, and in this war Hamilcar had distinguished himself as a general. It was now a time of peace; but every one knew that another war would follow, and he was on his way to Spain to get money from the Spanish silver mines. After some years, Hamilcar was slain in battle in Spain, and as soon as his son was old enough, the Carthaginians put him in his father's place as commander.

Hannibal was only twenty-six, but he had some definite ideas about overcoming the Romans. He believed that the proper way to attack them was not to fall upon the towns here and there along the coast, but to come down into Italy from the north and so push into the very heart of the country. This was a most excellent plan; the only difficulty was how to carry it out, for rivers and mountains and long stretches of wild and savage country lay between Spain and Italy. Nevertheless, he set out with good courage. He marched through Spain, crossed the Pyr'e-nees, and made his way to the banks of the Rhone. Most of the tribes in that part of the country were at swords' points with the Romans, and had not the least objection to allowing him to pass through their lands. When he came to the Rhone, however, he found that the tribes on the farther bank were ready to fight, though those about him were friendly. He hired all the boats that belonged to these friendly folk and cut down trees to make others. The night before he meant to cross, he sent part of his troops twenty-two miles up the stream. They cut down trees and built some rude rafts, and by means of these made their way to the opposite shore. Hannibal and his men got into the boats all ready to start. The hostile Gauls were waiting for them, brandishing their weapons and shouting their war cries. But away beyond them Hannibal saw a thin line of smoke slowly rising. This was the signal. He pushed across the river, and the horses swam after him, some of the soldiers holding their bridles. The forces that had gone upstream now appeared. The Gauls were shut in between the two bodies of troops; and they ran for their lives.

Hannibal, elephants


The elephants were still on the other side, and elephants are not fond of crossing rivers in small boats. Hannibal tried his best to make them think that they were on dry land by covering great rafts with earth. The elephants were too wise to be cheated in this fashion, and when the rafts began to move, some of them jumped overboard. Fortunately, they made their way to the farther shore, and before long the army was again on the march.

The next difficulty was to cross the Alps. The mountaineers came to meet Hannibal with wreaths on their heads and branches of trees in their hands and gave him a most friendly greeting. They would sell him cattle, they said, if he wished, and they would show him the best paths over the mountains. He felt a little suspicious of them, but they seemed so sincere that at length he accepted some of them as guides. But they led him and his men into a narrow defile; then from the heights above they rolled down great stones and masses of rock. Hannibal with some of his infantry climbed the cliff and drove the crafty mountaineers back, while the cavalry and the baggage-carriers made their way out of the defile.

Hannibal in Alps


Up, up, the weary soldiers struggled until they were on the summit of the Alps. They were cold and exhausted and many had died; but Hannibal pointed to a valley below them and cried, "Italy! There is Italy, and yonder lies the way to Rome." After a little rest, they began the descent. It was wet and slippery. The track was often covered with snow. In one place an avalanche had swept it away entirely for three hundred yards, and they had to stop and build a road; and a road wide enough and strong enough to satisfy the elephants was not to be made in a day. At last the Alps had been crossed, but half of the men were dead. The others were worn out with cold and hunger and toil. And this was the army that had come to conquer the most powerful nation in the world!

The Romans sent out their forces to meet Hannibal, but he overcame them in three great contests. For many years they had been accustomed to victories, and they were almost thunderstruck at these defeats. Of course they appointed a dictator, Quin'tus Fa'bi-us Max'i-mus. He did not dare to engage in an open battle, for if he had lost, this conquering army would have marched straight upon Rome; but he kept as near Hannibal as possible; and if any Carthaginian troops were separated from the main army, they seldom returned, for Fabius was always ready to cut them off. He harassed Hannibal in every way that he could. "Fabius is a traitor," the Romans cried angrily. They clamored for a battle, and they called him scornfully the "Cunc-ta'tor," the delayer. Later, they saw how wise he had been, and "Cunctator" became a title of honor.

The following year Hannibal overcame the Romans at Can'næ and sent home to Carthage a peck of gold rings from the fingers of the conquered soldiers. The Romans were in terror lest he should enter their city. For some reason he did not attempt it, but spent the winter in Capua. The soldiers rested and feasted and drank and enjoyed themselves. This was no way to strengthen an army; and in the spring, he was no longer a victorious commander, but a commander in difficulties. It was true that the Romans were not strong enough to drive him out of the country; but neither was he strong enough to conquer Rome. Carthage was not generous in sending money; troops coming to aid him were captured by his enemies; and a young Roman general named Scip'i-o succeeded in driving the Carthaginians out of Spain and inducing the Spaniards to stand by Rome.

This young Scipio was a shrewd man. He made up his mind that the best way to get Hannibal out of Italy was to attack the Carthaginians in their own country. He felt sure that then they would order all their troops home to defend Carthage. The senate did not agree with him, and the wary Cunctator did not agree; but Scipio had become consul, and no one could well hinder him from carrying out his plans, especially as the common people believed in him and promptly volunteered to fill up his lines. It resulted just as he had hoped. He overcame the Carthaginian army in Africa, and Hannibal was called home. There was a terrible battle between the two armies at Za'ma, and the forces of Hannibal were destroyed. Then the Romans saw how wise Scipio had been, and they gave him the title of Af-ri-can'us in honor of his victories in Africa. When he came home, he had a more magnificent triumph than had ever been seen in Rome before. Carthage was crushed. She had to give up her elephants and warships, to pay Rome an immense tribute, and agree to wage no wars without the consent of her conqueror.

This was the end of the second war between Carthage and Rome, but it was not the end of Hannibal's career. He became chief magistrate of his city. He found that some of its officials were taking possession of the state revenues. He put a stop to this and managed so wisely that even the enormous annual tribute could be paid to Rome without taxing the citizens severely. He showed himself as great a statesman as soldier, and in spite of all her troubles, Carthage became prosperous again. Rome in her jealousy demanded that Hannibal should be given up; but he fled to Syria. It is said that he and Scipio Africanus met in Asia Minor and had many friendly talks together. The story is told that Scipio once asked Hannibal whom he regarded as the greatest general. Hannibal replied, "Alexander." "Whom next?" asked Scipio. "Pyr'rhus," was the reply. "And whom next?" "Myself." "Where, then, would you have ranked yourself if you had conquered me?" "Above Alexander, above Pyrrhus, and above all other generals," said the Carthaginian.

Carthage women


Hannibal fled from one king to another; but wherever he went, the Romans pursued. He had long realized that he could not hope to escape from them, and in a ring which he wore he always carried about with him a fatal poison. The time soon came when he must choose between falling into the hands of the Romans and taking his own life. He chose the latter. Thus ended the days of one of the greatest generals of ancient times.

The rest of the story of Carthage is soon told. She had been forbidden to wage war, but enemies attacked her. As was to have been expected, the Romans would do nothing, and she defended herself. This was just the excuse that the Romans wanted, and they commanded the Carthaginians to destroy their own city and make a new settlement ten miles from the sea. The Carthaginians fought to the death. For three long years they resisted all the power of Rome; then the end came. The town was burned, its site was ploughed up, and all of its people who had not died in its defense were sold as slaves.

A few years later, there was a revolt in Spain. This was overcome, and in 133 B.C. Rome ruled the ring of countries about the Mediterranean Sea. These made up "the world." Therefore the tiny village of Romulus and Remus had become the ruler of the world.


Hannibal's oath. — He sets out for Rome. — Crossing the Rhone. — The passage of the Alps. — The descent. — The "Cunctator." — The Roman defeat at Cannæ. — Hannibal's winter in Capua. — Scipio goes to Africa. — The surrender of Carthage. — Carthage becomes prosperous again. — The talk between Hannibal and Scipio Africanus. — The flight and death of Hannibal. — The destruction of Carthage.

Julius Caesar, The First Emperor Of Rome

When Ju'li-us Cæ'sar was a young man, he was taken by pirates. He sent his servants to collect money for his ransom, and then he set to work to make merry with his captors. When he was tired, he told them to keep quiet and let him sleep. When he wanted to be amused, he told them to dance and entertain him—and the strange part of it is that they obeyed. He composed verses and orations and ordered the pirates to listen to them. They did not know what to make of either him or his verses, and he rated them for their stupidity. "You don't know poetry when you hear it," he said. "You think you can scoff at my verses and orations because I am your prisoner. I'll take you prisoners some day, and then you shall have your pay." "What will it be?" they demanded with shouts of laughter. "I'll crucify every one of you," he replied quietly. Not so very long after this he kept his word; but the Romans laughed at him for being so tenderhearted as to have their throats cut before they were crucified.

A few years later, Cæsar was made governor of Spain. As a general thing, when a man became governor of a province, his chief aim was to get as much money from the provincials as possible; but Cæsar behaved as if he were really interested in his people and wanted to help them. He completed the conquest of Spain, and he straightened out the financial affairs of the province. Then he returned to Rome. The people's party made him consul; but the nobles succeeded in electing one of their own party to be the second consul. Cæsar was so much stronger than he that the jokers of the time used to date their papers, "In the consulship of Julius and Cæsar."

There were now in Rome three men of power: Cras'sus, who was enormously rich; Pom'pey, who had long been a successful general; and Cæsar, who had not yet accomplished so very much, but who had the power to make people believe that he could do whatever he chose to undertake. These three men, the First Tri-um'vi-rate, as they are called, bargained together to help one another and divide the Roman world among them.

Cæsar's share in this division was Gaul, the present France, and he set off to conquer the country. Before long, wonderful stories came back to Rome of great victories and the capture of thousands of prisoners. Trees were cut down in the forest, and in a few days they had been made into complicated bridges. Great chiefs yielded and cities surrendered. There were tales of forced marches, of sudden surprises, of vast amounts of booty, also of a mysterious land across the water to the northwest. It was called Brit'ain, and tin was brought from there, but no one knew much about it, not even whether it was an island or not. By and by, Cæsar visited this Britain. He wrote a book about the country and his conquests there and about his campaigns in Gaul. It is called his "Commentaries," and is so clear and simple and concise that it is a model of military description.

Julius Caesar


The Triumvirate had agreed that Pompey should give up his command in Spain and Cæsar his command in Gaul at the same time; but Pompey remained near Rome, and he induced the senate to allow him to continue governor of Spain for five years longer. Then Cæsar was aroused. At the end of the five years, he would be only a private citizen, while Pompey would be commander of a great army. Crassus was dead. "Either decree that Pompey and I shall give up our provinces at the same time, or allow me to stand for the consulship before I enter Rome," Cæsar urged. The senate refused and, moreover, threatened two magistrates, called tribunes of the people, who stood by Cæsar. They fled to his camp on the farther side of the little river Ru'bi-con.

It was a law in Rome that any Roman general who brought his army across the Rubicon should be regarded as an enemy to his country. Cæsar could declare now, however, that he was coming, not as an enemy, but to defend the people and their tribunes against Pompey and the nobles. It is said that he hesitated, then exclaimed, "The die is cast," and plunged into the river, followed by his army.

Pompey fled. Cæsar made himself master of Italy and then pursued. At Phar-sa'lus in Thes'sa-ly a great battle was fought, and Cæsar won. Pompey fled to Egypt for protection; but the Egyptian councilors were afraid of Cæsar and killed the fugitive. Cæsar returned to Rome the ruler of the world. He had a magnificent triumph, and he gave the people feasts and money and combats of wild beasts, their favorite amusement. The senators were thoroughly humbled. They made him dictator for life; they changed the name of his birth-month from Quin-ti'lis (fifth) to Julius (July); they stamped their money with his image; they even dedicated temples and altars to him as to a god.

Cæsar's head was not turned by this flattery; but the heads of those who had opposed him were almost turned with astonishment and relief. Some years before this, one general named Ma'ri-us and then another one named Sul'la had held sole rule in Rome, and each of them had put to death some thousands of the people who had been against him. The Romans supposed that Cæsar would behave in the same way; but he made no attempt to revenge himself. Indeed, his only thought seemed to be to do what was best for Rome. He made just laws for rich and poor, and was especially thoughtful of the good of the provincials. He planned to collect a great library, to put up magnificent temples and other public buildings, to rebuild Carthage, to make a road along the Apennines, and to drain the Pon'tine Marshes, which were near the city.

Cæsar ruled nobly, but a plot was formed against him. The chief conspirators were Cas'si-us and Bru'tus. Cassius was envious of his great power; Brutus believed that if Cæsar were slain, the old forms of government would be restored and Rome would be again a republic. These men pressed about Cæsar in the senate house as if they wished to present him a petition. At a signal, they drew their swords. Cæsar defended himself for a moment; then he saw among them the face of Brutus, the one to whom he had shown every favor and to whom he had given a sincere affection. He cried, "You, too, Brutus!" drew his robe over his face, and fell dead.

Mark Antony


It was the custom for an oration to be delivered at a funeral, and the conspirators very unwisely permitted Cæsar's friend An'to-ny to speak at his funeral. He also read Cæsar's will, in which he had left a gift of money to every citizen and had been especially generous to some of the very men who had become his murderers. The people were aroused to such a pitch of fury that the assassins were glad to flee from the city. The senate appointed Antony to see that the will was carried out, and they agreed to accept as ruler a grand-nephew of Cæsar whom he had named as his successor. This grandnephew was a young man named Oc-ta-vi-a'nus, who afterwards became the emperor Au-gus'tus.


Cæsar and the pirates. — Cæsar as governor and as consul. — The First Triumvirate. — Cæsar's conquest of Gaul. — The crossing of the Rubicon. — The death of Pompey. — The honors shown to Cæsar. — His plans for Rome. — His murder. — The oration of Antony. — Octavianus becomes ruler.

Cicero, The Great Roman Orator

Some of the Roman schoolboys once told their fathers that they had a schoolmate who could do anything. They said that he was always first in whatever study he attempted, and that he could even write poetry. Some of their tales were so amazing that the fathers went to the school to hear the wonderful boy recite.

This boy was Mar'cus Tul'li-us Cic'e-ro. His father was an educated man, and he meant that his son should have every advantage. The young Cicero studied with famous lawyers. One of his first cases required a good deal of courage. The Roman general Sulla had returned from the East with his army and had seized upon the city. He published long lists of those whom he wished out of his way, and whoever killed a man whose name was on these lists was rewarded. The estates of these proscribed persons were sold at auction for the benefit of the state; and it was very convenient for some one of Sulla's freedmen to bid them in for him at a small price. In one case, Ros'ci-us, the son of the murdered man, declared that his father's estate was worth nearly three hundred thousand dollars, though it had been knocked down to a freedman of Sulla's for three hundred and sixty dollars. Sulla wanted to make it appear that he was ruling according to law, and so, instead of having Roscius assassinated, he accused him of murdering his father. Cicero was the only lawyer who dared to defend him. He won the case; but Rome was no longer a safe place for him. He went to Greece, and remained till the death of Sulla.

Cicero won much applause by his defense of Roscius; but his next case of importance raised him to the highest pitch of fame. In this he spoke for the Sicilians. Ver'res had been their governor, or rather, their oppressor. He stole their grain, he stole paintings, gems, statues, tapestry, even the very columns of their temples. The handsomest houses of the island became as bare as barns, because Verres had stolen their beautiful furnishings. He was terribly cruel to the Sicilians. If they had property that he wanted, he would put them to death for the smallest offense, even by the slave's death of crucifixion. Verres expected to be brought before the courts, but he was prepared to buy an acquittal, and even then he would have an immense fortune remaining. But Cicero showed his villainy so plainly to the court that Verres saw there was no chance of escape, and he fled without waiting for the end of the trial.



Cicero was now recognized as the greatest orator in Rome. He held one position after another in the government; and at length he became consul. A noble named Cat'i-line had plotted to kill the magistrates, to burn the city, and overthrow the government. The worst men of Italy had joined in this plot. Cicero discovered it and called the senators together to reveal it to them. Behold, there sat Catiline! Then Cicero thundered at him, "In the name of the gods, Catiline, how long will you abuse our patience? Is there no limit to your audacity?" Cicero told the senate all the details of the plot, and Catiline fled to the troops that he had been bringing together. A few days later he was slain in a battle with the Romans. The people of Rome felt that Cicero had saved them from destruction. The streets were illuminated with lamps and torches, and the city reëchoed with shouts of "Cicero! Cicero! The Savior of Rome!" The title of "Father of his Country" was given to him.

Some of Catiline's allies had been captured and had been put to death without any waiting for a trial. This was done by command of the senate; but as Cicero was consul, he was looked upon as responsible for the acts of the senate. Of course he had enemies, and now one of them proposed that an old law be renewed which forbade fire and water to any one who had put to death a Roman citizen without a regular trial. Cicero fled to Greece. The Greeks were delighted to see him, and would have loaded him with honors; but he was too miserable. He longed to be in Rome again. After a while, the tide turned, and he was recalled. He came in triumph, for both magistrates and people lined the road to bid him welcome.

When Pompey and Cæsar were struggling to see which should win the rule of the state, Cicero decided to stand by Pompey. After Cæsar had overcome Pompey in battle, Cicero was a badly frightened man, for no one knew how the conqueror would behave toward him. Cæsar treated; him, however, with respect and with as much kindness as if they had always been friends. After the murder of Cæsar, Cicero stood by Mark Antony; but he soon saw that Antony was carrying out his own will and was not trying to restore freedom to Rome, but to win all power for himself. People had sometimes thought Cicero timid and wavering, but only a brave man would have dared to do what he did now; for he thundered out fourteen fearless orations, or "philippics," against Antony. He warned the people that Antony was rapidly seizing all power for himself, and he besought them to show the patriotism of their ancestors and preserve the freedom of the state. He became the friend and adviser of the young Octavianus, and hoped that he could induce him to help restore the republic. This Octavianus was a wily young man. He had no desire to make an enemy of the greatest orator in the land, and he pretended to fall in with Cicero's ideas. He even called Cicero "Father," and said that he himself was only a youth and wished to follow the wise judgment of the older man. After some fighting between Octavianus on one side and Antony together with Lep'i-dus, one of Cæsar's former officers, on the other, the shrewd Octavianus proposed that the three should meet on a little island in the Rhe'nus River and divide the world among them. This was the Second Triumvirate. As in the times of Sulla, a list of men to be put to death was made out. Antony had not forgotten the terrible philippics, and he would agree to nothing until the others had written the name of Cicero on the fatal list. Octavianus at first refused, then yielded. Cicero heard that he was among the proscribed, and he fled to the shore, went a little way by sea, then landed and walked toward Rome, then turned again toward the sea, then took refuge in his villa near Cai-e'ta. The falseness of Octavianus seemed to distress him more than the fact that murderers were in pursuit, and he thought once of making his way into the young man's house and killing himself upon the altar of the household gods in order to call down their vengeance upon the treacherous friend. Cicero's servants persuaded him to get into his litter, and they hurried him toward the sea. The assassins came upon him, and he was slain. There is a story that many years afterward one of Octavianus's grandsons was reading a book of Cicero's when his grandfather came upon him suddenly. The boy tried to slip it under his robe, but Octavianus took it from him and stood reading page after page. Then he gave it back and said, "My child, this was an eloquent man and a lover of his country." This was true, but it came with a poor grace from the man who had consented to his murder.


Cicero as a schoolboy. — He defends Roscius. — He speaks against Verres. — The conspiracy of Catiline. — Cicero is driven into exile. — Pompey and Cicero. — The philippics. — The Second Triumvirate. — The murder of Cicero.

Augustus And The Augustan Age

The young Octavianus, who became emperor of Rome, was only nineteen at the time of Julius Cæsar's death. Antony treated him at first as if he were a pettish child crying for a toy; but he soon found that this boy was as shrewd and wary as if he had had fifty years of experience. Not long after the Second Triumvirate had been formed, an excuse was found for dropping Lepidus. The Roman world was now in the hands of Antony and Octavianus. They agreed that Antony should rule the East and Octavianus the West. Antony set out for the East to put his realm in order; but there he met Cle-o-pa'tra, the beautiful queen of Egypt. He divorced his wife, Octavianus's sister, and this ruler of half the world spent his time feasting and hunting and amusing himself with Cleopatra. The Romans were amazed. Next they heard that Antony was putting on the airs of an eastern king. There were rumors that he meant to establish a kingdom, take Al-ex-an'dri-a for his capital, and from there go forth to conquer Rome. Then the Romans were angry, and they very willingly followed Octavianus to make war against him. He was soon overpowered in the naval battle of Ac'ti-um, off the coast of Greece, and both he and Cleopatra took their own lives.



Octavianus was master of the world, but he behaved as if he never dreamed of holding such a position. He called himself simply "Im-pe-ra'tor," from which our word emperor is derived. This was a military title which meant about the same as commander. He never spoke of his success in the East as a victory over Antony, but always as an eastern war. He was consul, and he voted in the senate, as other consuls had done. When he laid down his consulship, the senate gave him the title of Au-gus'tus, meaning little more than "Your Majesty."

For fifty years there had been no firm, settled government. The Romans were tired of confusion, and they wanted peace and quiet. Octavianus, or Augustus, was able to give them peace and quiet, and there was no one else in Rome who could do this, and there was no one else who had any better right to rule than he. Best of all, he did not seem to have any ambition for himself. So far as they could see, he aimed at nothing more than doing his best for the state. He was kind and friendly to every one. He lived in a house which was no handsomer than the dwellings of other men of wealth. At public feasts he wore a purple robe; but at other times his dress was not different from that of the other citizens. Indeed, it was said that his toga was woven by his wife.

But Augustus was a keen observer. He had noticed that people were not easily disturbed by changes in the government, provided the old forms were kept up. He knew perfectly well that if he should attempt to call himself "king," Rome would be in a fury, and he would probably lose his life before many days had passed. He knew, too, that it would not be a difficult matter to take, one by one, the different powers of a king without any one's feeling disturbed. He became princes, or first senator, and pontifex maximus, or chief priest. "Imperator" came to mean commander-in-chief of all the Roman forces on land and sea. Probably some people noticed that Augustus was continually taking new powers; but he seemed to do it merely as a convenience, and often suggested that part of them should be left to others. He was apparently so willing to give them up that there was little chance for any one to feel alarmed. In this way it came about that he was head of the army, the navy, the senate, the people, and the religion. He had all the powers of a king.

How did he use his power? He repaired temples and other public buildings, and he built many more. He made just laws. He taught the people to attend strictly to the neglected worship of the gods. The people in Rome almost worshiped him; and as for the provincials, they dedicated temples to him as if he were a god. One can hardly wonder at the devotion of these provincials. They had had many governors almost as bad as Verres, who cared for nothing but to get as much money from them as possible; but this Augustus took an interest in them. All the governors were carefully watched, and every provincial could tell any grievance to the emperor, and find him ever ready to listen. It did not take the various governors long to learn that if they were unjust, they would be punished, and that, no matter how large their fortunes might be, there was no hope of bribing this judge. It is said that one day when Augustus was out sailing, a Greek ship came close to his vessel, and the sailors began to offer up a sacrifice to him. "You have given us happiness," they said; "you have made our lives and our property safe."



Augustus thought that the dominions of Rome were large enough; but he wanted to have natural boundaries, mountains, rivers, and deserts, as far as possible. He hoped to keep the Elbe River for part of his northern boundary, but the tribes rebelled against Va'rus, their governor. They destroyed his army and tortured their prisoners. This was such a grief to Augustus that he is said to have called out even in his dreams, "O Varus, Varus, give me back my legions!" His wars were generally to suppress tribes already partly conquered or to put down rebellions, rather than to make new conquests.



A Roman ruler was expected not only to govern his subjects and to protect the country, but also to amuse the people. Nothing was so entertaining to the Romans as the shows in which gladiators fought with one another or with wild beasts. Augustus provided this amusement most lavishly. He obtained wild beasts by the hundred and gladiators by the thousand. The Romans watched the contests with the greatest delight. After one gladiator had vanquished another, the victor stood beside his victim, knife in hand, and looked up to the spectators to see what should be done with him. If the man had fought bravely, they stretched out their hands with the thumbs up; but if he had seemed to them cowardly or unskillful, the thumbs were pointed down. This meant "Kill him!" and in a moment the bloody knife was thrust into the conquered man. Of course the Romans, both men and women, became more and more brutal. The loss of a human life was nothing to them if they were only entertained.



So it was that the state provided amusement for the people. It also provided bread. For more than a hundred years, the laws had allowed every citizen to buy grain at half price or even less. It is thought that at this time half the dwellers in the city received their bread this way. Some, of course, really needed the help; but others seemed to have no self-respect in the matter, and preferred to receive their food as a charity rather than work for it.

[Illustration] from Old World Hero Stories by E. M. Tappan


Augustus cared a great deal about good literature. Authors cannot write very well when they are afraid of losing their heads any day; but with a strong, kind ruler who kept the land peaceful and was deeply interested in their work, they did their best. It was in this reign that Virgil lived, who wrote about the adventures of Æneas. The name of Æneas's son Ascanius was said to have been changed to I-u'lus, or Julius, after he reached Italy; and Augustus liked to think that Julius Cæsar and he himself were among his descendants. Hor'ace lived at that time, and wrote charming and graceful poems. He did not attempt to tell stories, like Virgil, but he understood so well how people think and feel that his poems seem as if they might have been written yesterday. Another poet was Ov'id, who wrote the old tales of the gods, such as the story of King Mi'das, who received the "golden touch," the stealing of Pro-ser'pi-na by Plu'to, the attempt of Dæd'a-lus and his son to make wings and fly, and many others. Liv'y was another of the famous authors of the day. He wrote a history of Rome, much of which is as interesting as any story book.

These were the best of the Latin writers, and therefore the times of Augustus are called the Golden Age, and also the Augustan Age, of Latin literature. This reign might be called "Golden" for another and a greater reason. The Romans had carried on warfare with hardly a break for seven hundred years; but during the times of Augustus, there were three periods of peace, and it was during one of these that Jesus was born in the far-away province of Ju-dæ'a, in the little town of Beth'le-hem.


Antony and Octavianus rule the world. — Antony in Egypt. — Octavianus becomes imperator, princeps, and pontifex maximus. — His kindness to the provincials. — The rebellion against Varus. — The gladiatorial shows. — Bread given to the people. —Virgil. — Horace. — Ovid. — Livy. — The birth of Jesus.

Marcus Aurelius, The Philosopher Emperor

A roman emperor was one day thinking over his childhood, and he concluded that he had been an exceedingly fortunate boy. His father died when he was a baby, it was true, but he wrote in his notebook that he had "good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good associates, good kinsmen and friends." About his teachers he wrote a great deal more. He did not say that one taught him arithmetic, one poetry, and so on; but he said that from one he had learned not to meddle with other people's affairs, from another not to spend his time on trifles, from another to be willing to forgive; and from the others to keep himself from fault-finding, to be cheerful, to love truth and justice, not to declare often that he had no leisure, and not to excuse neglect of his duties to others by saying that he was busy.

This emperor's name as a boy was Mar'cus An'ni-us Ve'rus. He belonged to a noble family, and was called to the attention of the emperor Ha'dri-an when he was a little fellow. The child was so noble and upright that Hadrian said his name ought not to be Verus (true), but Ve-ris'si-mus (truest).

When this young Marcus was about twelve, he became interested in a kind of philosophy known as stoicism. He made up his mind that its teachings were good and that he would follow them as long as he lived; and, what is more, he did not change his belief. Some of the precepts of stoicism are as follows: One ought never to complain, but to yield to necessity calmly and serenely; one ought not to allow himself to be overwhelmed with grief or enraptured with joy; one should never make pleasure his aim. The stoics dressed simply and lived plainly. They were taught to treat all men alike, whether great or small. They were to work hard, to practice self-denial, and never to listen to slander.

All this time the emperor Hadrian was watching the young stoic. He had no son, and he was trying to decide who should follow him as emperor. Marcus was only seventeen, or probably Hadrian would have chosen him. He did choose An-to-ni'nus, an uncle of the boy, a man of about fifty years. He was upright and just and with gentle, kindly manners. He was not eager to undertake so great a labor as the care of a mighty empire, but finally he yielded. Hadrian made one condition to Antoninus's becoming his heir, and this was that he should adopt as his successors the young Marcus and also one Lucius Verus, whose father had been a friend of Hadrian. Soon after the agreement was made, Hadrian died, and Antoninus took his place.

For more than twenty years, Marcus Au-re'li-us Antoninus, as he was now called, lived with his uncle. Antoninus loved him like a father and gave him a large part in the government, and honored him in every way in his power. Antoninus was a good man. He always tried to be at peace with every one and to treat every one justly. He kept the empire in order and kept himself cheerful and serene, and he was greatly loved by his nephew.

Hadrian's tomb


When the time came that Antoninus knew he must die, he called together the chief men of Rome to talk about who should be his successor. He had two sons of his own, but he did not try to win the empire for them. He recommended that the senate should choose Marcus. Evidently he could not make up his mind to recommend Lucius Verus also. The senate agreed with him and asked Marcus Aurelius to become sole emperor. He knew that it was Hadrian's wish that Verus should reign together with him, and he insisted that this should be done. Verus was somewhat weak in character and had little idea of self-control; but he did have a great respect for Marcus Aurelius and was always ready to follow his advice. They ruled together in perfect harmony until the death of Verus. All sorts of troubles afflicted the empire. First of all, there was a terrible flood. Much of Rome was swept away, field and crops were destroyed, and cattle were drowned. There were fires, and there were earthquakes. Worst of all, there was war; and Marcus Aurelius had a horror of war. He thought that it was a shame and disgrace. Nevertheless, he was emperor, and he had to protect his empire. The Par'thi-ans in the east revolted. They were overcome in battle, but when the army returned, a dreadful pestilence came with them. It spread from region to region. "It is the end of the empire," people whispered fearfully; but at length the plague disappeared. Then there was danger from the Germans, and Marcus Aurelius remained in camp and on the battlefield for three years before they were subdued.

Marcus Aurelius


This emperor fought because it was necessary, but he loved quiet thought, and wherever he was, he carried with him a little notebook, and in it he wrote any thoughts that came to him about the noblest way to live. It was at this time that he jotted down between battles his memories of his childhood and of the goodness of his friends and teachers. He wrote that of course he must expect to meet ungrateful, envious, deceitful people; but that they could not really do him any harm, and that the only reason why they were of such character was because they did not fully understand what was good and what was bad. This little notebook of the busy emperor is very interesting. He tells people that they ought not to waste their lives in wondering what others are saying and thinking, and that their own thoughts ought always to be so kindly that if any one asked, "What are you thinking about?" they would not be at all afraid to answer honestly. He says that when any one wants to feel happy, it is an excellent plan to think of his friends and call to mind their good qualities. Think more of the good things you have than of those you have not, he advises. Another thought is that the best way to avenge one's self is to be careful not to become like the wrong-doer. He makes it seem not only wrong, but exceedingly silly to continue in ill-doing, for he says, "It is a ridiculous thing for a man not to fly from his own badness, which is indeed possible, but to fly from other men's badness, which is impossible."

Marcus Aurelius would have liked to spend his time thinking about life and setting down his thoughts in this way and in being with his family and his friends; but he could spare only stray moments for such pleasures. He had to give his days either to war or to thinking how to take care of the roads, how to manage the city at less expense, how to get enough soldiers and how to pay those that he already had, and how to answer the hundred and one questions that came up every day for his decision. It is no wonder that he had to rise early in the morning and work till after midnight. He was obliged to show himself at the games and the fights of the gladiators; but while he was there, he usually read or had some one read to him.

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius the Christians were terribly persecuted. It often happened that the most bitter persecutions took place during the reigns of the best emperors; and so it was with Marcus Aurelius. Although his ideas were much like those of Christianity, he probably knew nothing of the Christian belief and was a sincere worshiper of the gods. When any trouble came upon the state, the first thought of both him and his people was that the state worship had not been carried on properly, and so the gods were angry. The Christians would not even burn a few grains of incense on the heathen altars; and therefore when flood or sickness afflicted the city, the Romans believed that they were to blame and ought to be persecuted.

Christian and Lions


When Marcus Aurelius was nearly sixty years old, a pestilence made its appearance in the army; and soon the Romans were grieving over the loss of their ruler. It had become the custom for the senate to pass a decree at the death of an emperor, declaring that he was now one of the gods; but in this case the people did not wait for any decree of the senate, they made a god of him at once; and for many years incense was burned before his statue and prayers were offered up to the emperor whom they loved so sincerely.


A fortunate boy. — "Not Verus, but Verissimus." — A young stoic. — Antoninus succeeds Hadrian. — Marcus Aurelius and Verus become emperors. — The troubles of Rome. — The notebook of the emperor. — His busy life. — The persecutions of the Christians. — Marcus Aurelius is worshiped as a god.

Constantine The Great

A roman emperor named Di-o-cle'ti-an once had what seemed to him a remarkably brilliant idea. Both "Augustus" and "Cæsar" had long been used not as proper names, but as titles; and he planned to have four rulers instead of one, two having each the title of Augustus and two that of Cæsar. One of his Cæsars was named Ga-le'ri-us, and one, Con-stan'ti-us. The latter was sent to govern Gaul and Britain. Diocletian's favorite residence was in Nic-o-me'di-a, on the Sea of Mar'mo-ra. Britain is a long way from Nicomedia, and Diocletian thought it wise to keep Constantius's son at court as a hostage to make sure that the father remained loyal and did not form any schemes to get the whole empire or even to become an Augustus. This son's name was Con'stan-tine. He grew up to be a tall, handsome young man, talented, and a general favorite. Diocletian liked him and gave him opportunities to distinguish himself in warfare.

After a while Diocletian and the other Augustus became tired of reigning and resigned. Then, according to the original arrangement, Galerius and Constantius became Augusti. So far all worked smoothly; but Diocletian had decreed that Galerius should name the two Cæsars. It was expected that he would certainly name Constantine; but he was jealous of the young man's talents and popularity and did not name, him. Constantius was alarmed, for no one knew what might happen to his son. He sent letter after letter to Constantine to come to him in Gaul; but Galerius always had some trivial excuse for refusing to let him go. At length permission was given, but Constantine was wise enough to suspect that he would probably be prevented from going or would perhaps be waylaid and murdered after he had started, and, he traveled at full speed from Nicomedia to Dover Strait. There he met his father and was just in time to cross to Britain with him and the army.

The father and son succeeded in quieting the troublesome people of the north, and then returned south as far as York. There Constantius became ill and died. This was exactly what Galerius had been waiting for. He was sure that he could manage the two Cæsars, and with Constantius dead, there was nothing to hinder him from becoming ruler of the whole enormous empire. At least, he supposed there was nothing. He had not taken into account the fact that both father and son had been so just and kind to the soldiers that they were greatly loved by the army. The was no waiting for imperial edicts at York, and as soon as Constantius was dead, the soldiers who had been under his command put a purple robe upon his son and saluted him as Augustus.

Constantine sent a letter to Galerius, expressing his regret that there had been no chance to consult him and begging that he would confirm the choice of the army. Then Galerius Augustus was a very angry man. He declared that he would burn the letter and also its bearer; but he realized that it was not well to quarrel with the army, and at length he agreed that Constantine should have the title, not of Augustus, but of Cæsar. Constantine made no objection, but set off to govern Gaul.

Soon Galerius was in trouble. One Max-en'ti-us had expected to be made an Augustus; and when Galerius chose some one else, he took up arms. Then there was confusion indeed. At one time six men were all trying their best to win the sovereignty of the empire. After a while, Galerius died, and the number soon narrowed down to four. Maxentius was the most determined of these, and there was an appeal to arms by him and Constantine.

There is a famous legend that, when on an expedition against Maxentius, Constantine was one day praying to the sun god. Suddenly he saw in the sky above the sun a cross, and over it was written a Greek phrase meaning "In this sign thou shalt conquer." According to the legend, Constantine had a new banner made at once and displayed to his soldiers with the announcement that he had become a Christian. This banner was of purple silk and hung from the shorter arm of a cross. It was ablaze with jewels and showed images of himself and his children. At the top of the upright beam were the Greek letters which stand for the cross and also for the Ch-r  of "Christ." With this for his standard he fought with Maxentius the battle of Mil'vi-an Bridge and won a victory which gave him such power that he and Li-cin'i-us, one of his rivals, were able to divide the empire between them, Licinius taking the east and Constantine the west.

Arch of Constantine


Both Constantine and his father had always been merciful to the Christians, and even when Galerius commanded that they should be persecuted, these two had never obeyed. The Christians were now treated with fairness. The laws against them were repealed and their churches and other property which had been seized were given back. The Christians had felt that they ought to be a people of peace, and they had shunned warfare; but now when Constantine's army went into battle, it followed the sign of the cross. That made the matter look entirely different, and great numbers of them joined his troops. He had need of them, for there was soon a war with Licinius; and when it had come to an end, the whole empire was in the hands of Constantine.

Constantine decided to choose a new capital. He thought of taking the old site of Troy; but finally he decided upon By-zan'ti-um on the Bos'pho-rus. He changed its name to Con-stan-ti-no'ple, or city of Constantine. It was an excellent location for trade, and it was near the most troublesome enemies of the Romans, that is, the Persians and the people north of the Dan'ube. Everything possible was done to make the new city handsome. Splendid houses and public buildings were raised; churches, palaces, theatres, baths, and circus were all built. The greatest artists of the time were employed, and Constantine even took from the cities of Greece and Asia Minor statues and ornaments, anything that could be carried away, to beautify Constantinople.

Constantine had worked hard to get the supreme power, and he had no idea of giving up any of it. He made a great many generals, but gave each one so few soldiers that there was little chance of any rebellion against himself, and he also divided the provinces into small districts, each with its governor. Every man who was in office was anxious to prevent any rebellion, for that would throw him out; and therefore this large body of governors and generals and magistrates was a mighty guard to keep the empire strong.

The empire was strong, but just beyond its limits were Goths, who were ever trying to break into its circle. Emperors who were powerful thrust them back. Emperors who were weak had to yield and let some of the Goths settle within the Roman bounds. So it went on for three quarters of a century. Then came Al'a-ric, a Gothic leader who Rome could not drive away.


Diocletian's brilliant idea. — Constantine goes to Britain. — He is saluted as Augustus, but becomes Cæsar. — Confusion in Rome. — The vision of Constantine. — The Christians join his army. — He becomes sole ruler. — The new capital. — Constantine's plan of government. — The Goths.