Retreat of the Ten Thousand - F. Younghusband


Beyond the great Persian Empire, on the other side of the Hellespont, was the little country of Hellas, or Greece. The Hellenes, or Greeks, as they are often called, were a race of men who had for centuries trained themselves in the art of noble thinking and noble living, and they looked down with some scorn on their less cultivated neighbours, to whom they gave, one and all, the name of Barbarians.

In many respects Hellas was a complete contrast to Persia. The country was a very small one, and it was further divided into a number of tiny states, each with a free government of its own, and independent of all the rest. To the Hellene citizen, the one supreme necessity of life was freedom, and consequently in almost all the states the government was in the hands of men chosen by the people. Now and again a monarchy would be established in one or other of the states, but it never lasted long, and in their horror of tyrants, the Hellenes were apt to overlook the advantages of a firm, stable government.

[Illustration] from Retreat of the Ten Thousand by F. Younghusband


It is true that in Hellas there were many slaves, but they formed a class apart and were in no sense citizens. The citizens themselves were free, and the Hellenes were convinced that honour, courage, and high-mindedness can only flourish among free men. It was their greatest pride to recall the battles fought by their countrymen in former days against the Barbarians of Persia, when, although outnumbered by ten to one, a handful of free men had put to flight a host of slaves.