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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber


 

 

CIMON IMPROVES ATHENS

[141] AS soon as Themistocles had been banished from Athens, Aristides again became the chief man of the city, and he was also made the head and leader of the allies. He was so upright and just that all were ready to honor and obey him, and they gladly let him take charge of the money of the state.

In reward for his services, the Athenians offered him a large salary and many rich gifts; but he refused them all, saying that he needed nothing, and could afford to serve his country without pay.

He therefore went on seeing to all the public affairs until his death, when it was found that he was so poor that there was not enough money left to pay for his funeral. The Athenians, touched by his virtues, gave him a public burial, held his name in great honor, and often regretted that they had once been so ungrateful as to banish their greatest citizen, Aristides the Just.

As Aristides had watched carefully over the money of the allied states, and had ruled the Athenians very wisely, it is no wonder that Athens had little by little risen above Sparta, which had occupied the first place ever since the battle of Thermopylæ.

The Athenians, as long as Aristides lived, showed themselves just and liberal; but as soon as he was dead, they began to treat their former allies unkindly. The money which all the Greek states furnished was now no longer used to strengthen the army and navy, as first agreed, but was lavishly spent to beautify the city.

[142] Now, while it was a good thing to make their town as fine as possible, it was certainly wrong to use the money of others for this purpose, and the Athenians were soon punished for their dishonesty.

Cimon, the son of Miltiades, was made the head of the army, and won several victories over the Persians in Asia Minor. When he returned to Athens, he brought back a great deal of spoil, and generously gave up all his share to improve the city and strengthen the walls.

It is said that Cimon also enlarged the beautiful gardens of the Academy; and the citizens, by wandering up and down the shady walks, showed that they liked this as well as the Lyceum, which, you will remember Pisistratus had given them.

They also went in crowds to these gardens to hear [143] the philosophers, who taught in the cool porticoes or stone piazzas built all around them, and there they learned many good things.


[Illustration]

The Theseum.

Cimon showed his patriotism in still another way by persuading the people that the remains of Theseus, their ancient king, should rest in the city. Theseus' bones were therefore brought from Scyros, the island where he had been killed so treacherously, and were buried near the center of Athens, where the resting-place of this great man was marked by a temple called the Theseum. A building of this name is still standing in the city; and, although somewhat damaged, it is now used as a museum, and contains a fine statue of Theseus.


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