|The Story of the Greeks|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Greece, made up principally of stories about persons, giving at the same time a clear idea of the most important events in the ancient world and calculated to enforce the lessons of perseverance, courage, patriotism, and virtue that are taught by the noble lives described. Beginning with the legends of Jason, Theseus, and events surrounding the Trojan War, the narrative moves on to present the contrasting city-states of Sparta and Athens, the war against Persia, their conflicts with each other, the feats of Alexander the Great, and annexation by Rome. Ages 10-14 |
THE MUSIC OF TYRTÆUS
 AFTER suffering great tortures under the Spartan yoke for
forty long years, the Messenians began to plan a
One of their princes, Aristomenes, a man of unusual
bravery, made up his mind to free the unhappy people,
and to ruin the proud city of Sparta, which had caused
them so much suffering.
He therefore secretly assembled all the Messenians,
and, when his plans were ready, began to war openly
against the Spartans, whom he defeated in several
With his small army, he even pressed forward toward
 the city of Sparta, and camped within sight of its
dwellings. The Spartan women could thus see a very
unusual sight,—the light of the enemies' fires.
To frighten the Spartans still more, Aristomenes went
secretly into the city one dark night, stole into the
principal temple, and there hung up the arms he had
taken during the war.
These weapons were arranged so as to form what the
Greeks called a trophy, and right under them
Aristomenes boldly wrote his name in letters so large
that all could see it.
When morning dawned, and the Spartans came as usual
into the temple to offer up their morning prayer and
sacrifice, they were astonished and dismayed at the
sight of this trophy. Aristomenes' bravery was so
great that they despaired of conquering him without
divine aid, and so they sent to ask an oracle what
they should do.
The oracle answered that the Spartans would be
victorious if they marched to war under the command of
an Athenian general. Now, the Spartans were a proud
people, and did not like to ask aid of any one; but
they made up their minds to obey this command, and so
sent a messenger to Athens to ask for a good leader.
Whether the Athenians, who were well known for their
love of joking, wished to make fun of the Spartans, or
whether they wanted to show them that the bodily beauty
and strength which the Spartans prized so highly was
not everything, no one now knows. The fact is,
however, that the Athenians sent the Spartans a poor,
lame schoolmaster, called Tyrtæus, to lead them in
battle. This man had never handled a weapon in his
 the Spartans were very angry when he placed himself at
their head with a lyre instead of a sword; but when he
suddenly began to sing one of those war songs which
make one's blood tingle, it roused their patriotism to
such a point that all were ready to conquer or die, and
their scorn was soon changed to deep admiration.
Fired by these patriotic songs, and by the stirring
music the lame schoolmaster played, the Spartans fought
better than ever before, overcame the Messenians, and
came home in triumph with their prisoners, among whom
was the brave Aristomenes.
As it was then usual to put all prisoners of war to
death, the Spartans threw all the Messenians down into
a horrible pit called the Ceadas. This was a dark
hole of great depth, and its sides were all covered
with jagged rocks, against which the prisoners were
dashed to pieces long before they reached the bottom.
The Messenians were cast into this place one after
another, Aristomenes being thrown in last of all, so
that he might have the sorrow of seeing his companions
die. Of course, this was very cruel, but the Spartans
had been brought up to think this mode of getting rid
of their enemies quite right; and when they had thus
killed them, they cheerfully went back to the city and
celebrated their victory.
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