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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber

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THE EARTHQUAKE

CIMON, as you have already seen, was very wealthy, and as generous as he was rich. Besides spending so much for the improvement of the city, he always kept an open house. His table was bountifully spread, and he gladly received as guests all who chose to walk into his home.

Whenever he went out, he was followed by servants who carried full purses, and whose duty it was to help all the poor they met. As Cimon knew that many of the most deserving poor would have been ashamed to receive alms, these men found out their wants, and supplied them secretly.

Now, although Cimon was so good and thoughtful, you [144] must not imagine that it was always very easy for him to be so. It seems that when he was a young man he was very idle and lazy, and never thought of anything but his own pleasure.

Aristides the Just noticed how lazy and selfish the young man was, and one day went to see him. After a little talk, Aristides told him seriously that he ought to be ashamed of the life he was living, as it was quite unworthy of a good citizen or of a noble man.

This reproof was so just, that Cimon promised to do better, and tried so hard that he soon became one of the most industrious and unselfish men of his day.

Cimon was not the only rich man in Athens, however; for Pericles, another citizen, was even wealthier than he. As Pericles was shrewd, learned, and very eloquent, he soon gained much influence over his fellow-citizens.

While Cimon was generally seen in the company of men of his own class, and was hence considered the leader of the nobles or aristocrats, Pericles liked to talk with the poorer class, whom he could easily sway by his eloquent speeches, and who soon made him their idol.

Day by day the two parties became more distinct, and soon the Athenians sided either with Pericles or with Cimon in all important matters. The two leaders were at first very good friends, but little by little they drifted apart, and finally they became rivals.

About this time an earthquake brought great misfortunes upon Greece. The whole country shook and swayed, and the effects of the earthquake were so disastrous at Sparta that all the houses and temples were destroyed.

[145] Many of the inhabitants were crushed under the falling stones and timbers, and there were only five houses left standing. The Spartans were in despair; and the Helots, or slaves, who had long been waiting for an opportunity to free themselves, fancied that the right time had come.

They quickly assembled, and decided to kill the Spartans while they were groping about among the ruined dwellings for the remains of their relatives and friends.

The plan would have succeeded had not the king, Archidamus, found it out. Without a moment's delay, he rallied all the able-bodied men, and sent a swift messenger to Athens for aid.

True to their military training, the Spartans dropped everything when the summons reached them; and the Helots came marching along, only to find their former masters drawn up in battle array, and as calm as if no misfortune had happened.

This unexpected resistance so frightened the Helots, that they hastily withdrew into Messenia. Here they easily persuaded the Messenians to join forces with them and declare war against the Spartans.

In the mean while the swift runner sent by Archidamus had reached Athens, and told about the destruction of the town and the perilous situation of the people. He ended by imploring the Athenians to send immediate aid, lest all the Spartans should perish.

Cimon, who was generous and kind-hearted, immediately cried out that the Athenians could not refuse to help their unhappy neighbors; but Pericles, who, like most of his fellow-citizens, hated the Spartans, advised all his friends to stay quietly at home.

[146] Much discussion took place over this advice. At last, however, Cimon prevailed, and an army was sent to help the Spartans. Owing to the hesitation of the Athenians, this army came late, and they fought with so little spirit that the Lacedæmonians indignantly said that they might just as well have remained at home.

This insult so enraged the Athenians that they went home; and when it became publicly known how the Spartans had treated their army, the people began to murmur against Cimon. In their anger, they forgot all the good he had done them, and, assembling in the market place, they ostracized him.


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