| Three Greek Children|
|by Alfred J. Church|
|When events during the Peloponnesian War demand it, the three children of Leon and Elpinicé are dispatched quickly from their home in Athens to take refuge in Sparta. During their sojourn there they learn much about Spartan customs and hear stories from Spartan history, which, when added to their personal experience of Athenian customs and stories of Athenian history, give a full picture of life in ancient Greece as children experienced it in the 5th century B.C. Ages 9-11 |
THE HOME IN ATHENS
 I AM going to tell you about some Greek children, who
lived more than two thousand years ago in a city called
Athens. The city stands still, and the ruins of many of
its old buildings are to be seen. Most of these
buildings were temples, in which the people used to
worship their many gods. There was Phœbus, the
sun-god; and Hera, the goddess of power; and Athené,
the goddess of wisdom; and Demeter, or mother-earth.
For they did not know, as did the Jews—who had,
you will remember, but one temple,—that there is
but one God from whom all good things come down to men.
Athens was one of the richest and
 most beautiful cities in the world, and very powerful
too; only at the particular time of which I am writing
the people were in great distress. Their enemies sent
an army every year into their country, and shut them up
in their walls during all the spring and summer time.
Thousands and thousands more than the city could
properly hold were crowded into it; numbers of people
had no houses to live in, and had to do as best they
could under carts tilted up, and even in great
barrels—any thing that could give them shelter.
Even the rich felt this trouble very much, and
especially the children, who had no out-door games; for
the streets were, of course, not fit for them to play
in, and they got sadly tired, in the hot days, of being
always shut up in their nurseries.
It is a very hot day in July, and the three children I
am going to tell you about are feeling very tired and,
I am afraid, a little cross. There are two girls, Gorgo
and Rhodium (Rhodium means Little Rose), and a
boy, Hipponax (which is in English Horse King).
 and Rhodium are playing with dolls, not made of wax or
wood, like our English dolls, but of clay, and painted
to make them look like soldiers, sailors, and
merchants, or ladies finely dressed, or working women.
Gorgo, who is the elder of the two girls, likes soldier
dolls, and has divided hers into two little armies. One
army she calls Spartans (the Spartans were the enemies
who were shutting up the people in the walls), and the other
Athenians. She sits on the floor and rolls a ball,
first into one army and then into the other. I don't
think that she rolls it quite fairly, for more of the
Spartans are upset than of the Athenians. Gorgo is just
ten years old. Her sister, who is four years younger,
does not care about soldier dolls, but is never tired
of playing at mother, nurse, and child, with the three
dolls which her own nurse has dressed up for her.
Hipponax, who is four, is amusing himself with a
cockchafer, which one of the servants has caught for
him. It has got a thread tied round it, and he holds
the other end of the thread in his hand and lets it
 fly about the room. This is a rather cruel game, and
the sisters seem to think so, for when the little boy
runs out of the room to get a drink of water, Gorgo
says to Rhodium: "I do wish that tiresome child would
find something else to play with besides these wretched
cockchafers. They do make such a nasty buzzing, and,
besides, they fly up against one's face, and I don't
like the feel of them at all. And I am sure they must
be very unhappy. I shall cut the thread while he is
away, and let the poor thing go."
"Oh! But he will be so angry," said Rhodium, who is a
timid, peaceable child, and rather afraid of her sturdy
little bother, who has already begun to think that he
is very much better than his sisters.
"He may be as angry as he likes," says Gorgo, and cuts
the thread which the little boy had tied to the leg of
Hipponax came back in just in time to see the beetle
fly off through the open window, and very angry he was.
He knew that Gorgo had
 let it go, and, small as he was, was ready to fly at
her, when Rhodium, the peacemaker, had a happy thought.
"Brother, dear," she said, "will you have my chariot to
It was a beautiful little toy of ivory, with four
horses made of wood, and so beautifully carved and
painted that, but for their size, they might have
seemed alive. The girl's uncle had given it to her the
year before, when he won the chariot race at the great
games of Olympia. Little Hipponax thought it ought to
belong to him. "What have girls to do with horses and
chariots?" he would say; "but I am the Horse King." It
was a special treat for him to be allowed to play with
it, and poor Rhodium used to look on in great fear
while he dragged it about the room, pretending that he was
winning a race. This is what he began to do now, and
his two sisters played at being the people who look on,
and clapped their hands and shouted, while he ran about
Happily, before any mischief was done, the
 nurse came back, and the children left their play to
ask her for a story.
Nurse was a Spartan woman. Rich people always got a
Spartan nurse for their children if they could, for
they had a way of keeping them in order without being
unkind. She had come into the family just after Gorgo's
birth, and could not bear to leave the dear little baby
when the war broke out between her country and Athens.
And there she had stopped ever since, and the children
loved her almost as much as they loved their mother.
"A story, nurse! a story!" they all cried.
"Have you been good children?" she said.
Hipponax hung his head, but as he had not actually
beaten his sister she was able to give him a good
So nurse made the two girls sit by her, and took Hipponax on
her knee, and told them the
STORY OF THE BOY WHOM DEMETER LOVED
"Once upon a time the goddess Demeter went wandering
about the world looking for her
 daughter, whom she had lost, and in her wanderings she
came to this country in which we are now living. There
was a poor man that had a small farm about ten miles
from the city. He had two children, one a girl of about
ten years old, and the other a baby-boy. The girl took
care of two goats, which she used to lead out to
pasture and milk. One day as she was coming home she
saw Demeter, who was dressed as a poor woman, sitting
on a stone near the house. 'Mother,' she said, 'is
there any thing that you want?' And when Demeter said
nothing, but only shook her head and began to cry (for
it was a sad thing to be called 'mother' now that she
had lost her daughter), the little girl ran to her
father and told him about the poor woman. The kind man
came out and begged her to come in, though it was but a
poor place, he said. Now it so happened that the
baby-boy was very ill. Indeed, his mother had no hope
that he would ever be well; but when Demeter went up to
him and kissed him as he lay in his cradle, at once he
began to get better, and before half an hour
 was over he was kicking and crowing as if he had never
been ill in his life. Then they sat down to supper—some
curds and whey made out of goat's milk, and honey in
the comb, and apples."
"But hadn't they any bread?" broke in little Rhodium.
"No, my child," said the nurse; "no one knew then how
to make bread."
"When they all went to bed Demeter said she would sit
up by the fire, for she felt she could not sleep. About
midnight, when all were sound asleep, she took the baby
out of his cradle, and laid him in the middle of the
fire. Ah! you look frightened; but she knew what she
was about. She had done something to the child that the
fire should not hurt him, but only burn out of him what
was weak and mortal, so that he should not die like
other people. But when this was half done the mother,
who was still a little anxious about the baby, happened
to wake and put her hand very gently on the cradle. And
lo! it was empty! That woke her up, you
 may be sure, thoroughly, and she sprang out of bed, and
going into the other room she saw the child lying in
the middle of the fire. She had it out in a moment,
making sure that it must be dreadfully burnt, if it was
not dead. How astonished she was when she found it was
not hurt at all! Then Demeter said, not angrily, but
sadly: "Foolish mother, why did you not trust me, and
leave him there? Now your child will die some day like
other men and women. Still, I will make him a wise man,
for he shall learn to plough, sow, and reap.' And this
is how people first got to grow wheat, and to make
Nurse had just finished her story when something
happened that was very rare indeed—the children's
father came into the nursery, for generally they went
down to see him. But he had such good news to tell them
that he could not wait.
"There is peace, dear children," he said; "peace has
been made to-day."
"And shall we be able to go to our dear country home?"
 "Yes," said he, "though I am afraid you will find it in
a very sad state."
All the rest of the day the children were almost out of
their minds with joy. When the two younger ones had
gone to bed, nurse said to Gorgo: "Now I am going to
tell you a story about another Gorgo, who lived many
years ago in my own dear country. I would not tell you
before, because I was sure that you did not like my
people, and did not care to know any thing about them.
But now that we are friends again you shall hear it.
"This Gorgo was daughter to one of your kings, and was
about a year younger than you are. One day she was
playing with her dolls in her father's room, when a
stranger was talking to him on some very serious
business. The stranger wished him to take an army of
Spartans on a very dangerous expedition, and when he
said no, he offered him money: first ten, then twenty,
then fifty talents. When the king heard of the fifty
talents he began to be shaken, for all the Spartans,
even the kings, are very
 poor, and this was a great sum of money. Then Gorgo
looked up from her dolls and said, 'Father, go away, or
else this stranger will do you harm.' When she grew up
to be a woman she became the wife of that Spartan king
who fought with his three hundred men against all the
army of Persians, and I think she helped him to be the
brave man he was."
The next day when Gorgo played with her dolls, she made
them into one army, and made believe they were going to
march against the Persians.
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