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THE REBUILDING OF ATHENS
THE Persians had been driven out of Greece, and the war
with them was now carried on in Asia Minor instead of
nearer home. The Greek army won
 many battles here also, and even managed to free the
city of Miletus from the Persian yoke.
These triumphs encouraged all the Ionian cities, and
they soon formed a league with the other Greeks,
promising to help them against the Persians should the
war ever be renewed. As soon as this alliance was made,
the Greek fleet returned home, bringing back to Athens
as a trophy the chains with which Xerxes had pretended
to bind the rebellious sea.
In the mean while the Athenians, who had taken refuge
on the Peloponnesus, had returned to their native city,
where, alas! they found their houses and temples in
ruins. The desolation was great; yet the people were so
thankful to return, that they prepared to rebuild the
They were greatly encouraged in this purpose by an
event which seemed to them a good omen. Near the temple
of the patron goddess of Athens stood a sacred olive
tree, supposed to have been created by her at the time
when the city received her name.
This place had been burned by the invaders, and
the returning Athenians sorrowfully gazed upon the
blackened trunk of the sacred tree. Imagine their
delight, therefore, when a new shoot suddenly sprang up
from the ashes, and put forth leaves with marvelous
The people all cried that the goddess had sent them
this sign of her continued favor to encourage them to
rebuild the city, and they worked with such energy that
they were soon provided with new homes.
As soon as the Athenians had secured shelter for their
families they began to restore the mighty walls
 which had been the pride of their city. When the
Spartans heard of this, they jealously objected, for
they were afraid that Athens would become more powerful
Of course, they did not want to own that they were
influenced by so mean a feeling as jealousy, so they
tried to find a pretext to hinder the work. This was
soon found, and Spartan messengers came and told the
Athenians that they should not fortify the town, lest
it should fall again into the hands of the enemy, and
serve them as a stronghold.
Themistocles suspected the real cause of these
objections, and made up his mind to use all his talents
to help his fellow-citizens. He therefore secretly
assembled the most able men, and told them to go on
with the work as fast as possible, while he went to
Sparta to talk over the matter with the Lacedæmonians.
When he arrived at Sparta, he artfully prolonged
the discussions until the walls were built high enough to
be defended. Of course, there was now nothing to be
done; but the Spartans were very angry, and waited
anxiously for an opportunity to punish the Athenians.
This came after a time, as you will see in the