| Famous Men of Greece|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Greece, from legendary times to its fall in 146 B.C. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
ARISTIDES THE JUST
 ARISTIDES was the rival of Themistocles. Themistocles was wise and
brave, but selfish and fond of money. Aristides, too, was
wise and brave, but he was also so honorable that the
Athenians called him "the Just."
On one occasion he was acting as judge between two men. One
of them had spoken unfairly of Aristides and the other came
secretly to Aristides to tell him of it. "My friend," said
Aristides, "tell me the wrong the man has done to you, not what
he has done to me. It is not my cause that I am to decide,
Aristides opposed many plans that Themistocles wished to
carry out, and so at length Themistocles determined to have
 There was at Athens a curious way of getting rid of a
citizen. Every year this question was put before the people:
"Does the safety of the State require that any citizen shall
be banished?" If it was decided that this was necessary the
people were called upon to vote. No person's name was
mentioned, but every citizen wrote on a small earthenware
tablet the name of any man whom he thought dangerous to the
state. The tablets were collected and counted, and if the
name of any one man was written on as many as 6,000 tablets
he had to leave the city for ten years. Banishing people in
this way was called "ostracism." We often use the word
to-day. It comes from a Greek word meaning an earthenware
Themistocles and his friends persuaded many of the Athenians
that Aristides was a dangerous citizen. So when a public
meeting was being held the people were asked if they thought
any citizen ought to be banished. No one mentioned
Aristides' name, but Themistocles' friends said, "Let a vote
be taken." While the vote was being cast a countryman who
could not write his own name came up to Aristides and said:
"Friend, will you write the name of Aristides for me on this
 "Has Aristides ever wronged you?" asked Aristides gently.
"No," said the other, "I have never even seen him, but I am
tired of hearing him called 'the Just.' "
Aristides said no more, but wrote his own name on the
ARISTIDES AND THE COUNTRYMAN
There were enough votes against Aristides to banish him. As
he was leaving Athens he prayed the gods that the time might
never come when his fellow-citizens should have cause to be
sorry for what they had done.
That time came, however. Three years later when Athens was
threatened by the Persians the citizens, at the request of
Themistocles himself, recalled Aristides. He sailed from
his place of exile to the bay of Salamis and went on board
the ship of Themistocles only a few hours before the famous
battle. Themistocles at once gave him command of one of the
Athenian ships, and he did good service in the battle.
IN the spring following the battle of Salamis Mardonius, the
Persian commander who was in Thessaly, tried to bribe the
Athenians to become allies of the great king but they
refused his offers with scorn. He then marched to Athens
 people abandoned the city, so that it fell into his hands.
The Greeks, however collected an army of one hundred and ten
thousand men. Pausanias, a nephew of Leonidas, the hero
of Thermopylae, was made commander-in-chief; but Aristides
commanded the Athenian troops. Mardonius now retreated from
Athens, destroying and burning as he went. The Greeks
followed and overtook him near the city of Platæa, and
there they defeated him in one of the "decisive battles of
the world." Mardonius himself was killed.
It took ten days to divide the spoil and bury the dead. A
tenth of the spoil was sent to Delphi and dedicated to
Apollo, because the promise of his oracle that "the wooden
wall would save the city" had led to the great victory of
Salamis. A temple was erected to Minerva, and
thank-offerings were made to other gods. "Liberty games"
were established, to be held on the battlefield once in four
years, and every year the tombs of those who had fallen in
battle were to be decorated with flowers. The land upon
which Platæa stood was declared to be sacred and the
inhabitants of the city were to be always free from attack
by other Greeks.
On the afternoon of the very day on which the battle of
Platæa was won the Greek fleet gained a
 great victory over the Persians at Mycale, on the coast of
Asia Minor. After their defeats at Marathon, at
Platæa, and at Mycale, the Persians never again
attempted to conquer Greece.
AS soon as the victory at Platæa had freed Greece from
the ravaging Persian army, the Athenians flocked back to
their ruined city and began to rebuild it. Aristides and
Themistocles carried on this work hand-in-hand.
RUINS OF PLATÆA
It was found that the sacred olive tree on the Acropolis,
though burned to the ground, was not killed. From its root
had sprung a stout young
 shoot. This was taken by the citizens as a good omen and
rebuilding of the city went on rapidly. The great sea-port
called the Piræus was fortified, and a wall was
built round the city.
These and other public works required a great outlay of
money, and it was needful to put some one whom all the
citizens trusted in charge of the fund raised. Aristides
was chosen and enormous sums of money were placed in his
hands. He used his office solely for the good of the people
and never became rich.
When he died, about 468 B.C., the whole nation mourned and
he was buried at public expense.
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