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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber


 

 

MILTIADES' DISGRACE

THE victory of Marathon was a great triumph for the Athenians; and Miltiades, who had so successfully led them, was loaded with honors. His portrait was painted by the best artist of the day, and it was placed in one of the porticos of Athens, where every one could see it.

At his request, the main part of the booty was given to the gods, for the Greeks believed that it was owing to divine favor that they had conquered their enemies. The brazen arms and shields which they had taken from the ten thousand Persians killed were therefore melted, and formed into an immense statue of Athene, which was placed on the Acropolis, on a pedestal so high that the glittering lance which the goddess held could be seen far out at sea when the sunbeams struck its point.

The Athenians vented their triumph and delight in song and dance, in plays and works of art of all kinds; [115] for they wished to commemorate the glorious victory which had cost them only a hundred and ninety men, while the enemy had lost ten thousand.

One of their choicest art treasures was made by Phidias, the greatest sculptor the world has ever known, out of a beautiful block of marble which Darius had brought from Persia. The great king had intended to set it up in Athens as a monument of his victory over the Greeks. It was used instead to record his defeat; and when finished, the statue represented Nemesis, the goddess of retribution, whose place it was to punish the proud and insolent, and to make them repent of their sins.

Miltiades was, as we have seen, the idol of the Athenian people after his victory at Marathon. Unfortunately, however, they were inclined to be fickle, and when they saw that Miltiades occupied such a high rank, many began to envy him.

Themistocles was particularly jealous of the great honors that his friend had won. His friends soon noticed his gloomy, discontented looks; and when they inquired what caused them, Themistocles said it was because the thought of the trophies of Miltiades would not let him sleep. Some time after, when he saw that Miltiades was beginning to misuse his power, he openly showed his dislike.

Not very far from Athens, out in the Ægean sea, was the island of Paros. The people living there were enemies of Miltiades, and he, being sole head of the fleet, led it thither to avenge his personal wrongs.

The expedition failed, however; and Miltiades came [116] back to Athens, where Themistocles and the indignant citizens accused him of betraying his trust, tried him, and convicted him of treason.

Had they not remembered the service that he had rendered his country in defeating the Persians at Marathon, they would surely have condemned him to death. As it was, the jury merely sentenced him to pay a heavy fine, saying that he should remain in prison until it was paid.

Miltiades was not rich enough to raise this large sum of money, so he died in prison. His son Cimon went to claim his body, so that he might bury it properly; but the hard-hearted judges refused to let him have it until he had paid his father's debt.

Thus forced to turn away without his father's corpse, Cimon visited his friends, who lent him the necessary money. Miltiades, who had been the idol of the people, was now buried hurriedly and in secret, because the ungrateful Athenians had forgotten all the good he had done them, and remembered only his faults.


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