|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
THE LAND OF HELLAS
 THE stories of gods and heroes are not pure history. They are
myths or legends which have grown with the ages, until
sometimes they are told as though they were true.
Although the tales I have been telling you of the early days
of Greece are myths, yet the Greeks who lived in later times
would often speak of them as though they had actually
I am going to tell you now, not of gods or heroes, but of
the true deeds of mortal men. And first of all you will
wish to hear a little about the land in which the ancient
It was named, as you already know, Hellas, while the
inhabitants were called Hellenes.
But Hellas and her people had another name given to them by
the Romans, who called Hellas Graecia, and the Hellenes
Graeci, from a tribe that dwelt in a part of the country
known as Epirus. Epirus was not a very important region,
but it was well known to the Romans who dwelt in the south
of Italy. We have altered these Roman names a little and
call Hellas Greece, the Hellenes Greeks.
If you open your atlas at the map of Europe, you will find
in the south the little country of Greece, which although it
is so small has yet flung its influence over all the wide world.
On three sides Greece is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea,
and the country is now usually known as the Balkan
 Greece is a land of great mountains. Of its loftiest
Olympus, which in ancient days was the abode of the
gods, you have already read.
The coast-line is broken up much as is the coast of
Scotland, by arms of the sea which run far inland, so far
inland that it is easy to reach the water from any part of
Close to the shores of Greece lie the islands of the Ægean
Sea. In these islands many Greeks settled, so that they
became an important part of Greece. The Ægean Sea we now
call the Archipelago.
In the time of Homer all Greeks were called Achaeans. But
in later days, only those Greeks were called Achaeans who
lived in the narrow strip of land in northern Peloponnesus
The ancient Achaeans dwelt in the valleys, which were cut
off from one another by great spurs of mountains. They were
united by an ancient league, and quarrelled less with one
another than did the other peoples of Greece.
Besides the Achaeans there were three other great races
The Dorians came from a little country called Doris,
near the famous Pass of Thermopylae, of which you have
still to hear. The Ionians dwelt on the east side of the
Ægean Sea, that is, they lived on the coast of Asia,
while the Æolians were scattered here and there
All these different tribes were Greeks, and they were proud
of their name, counting all other peoples barbarians, and
despising them because they were not Greeks. Many of them
were traders or adventurers from Asia, and they entered the
new country from the north-east, through Thessaly, and that
was not a difficult journey.
Others crossed over from Asia by sea to search for a new
home. But their galleys were rough, uncomfortable vessels,
in which there was little room for the many who embarked.
When storms arose they suffered great misery, huddled
 closely together on their small and unseaworthy boats.
Fear, too, took hold of them and the horror of death.
So the wanderers were glad when they saw the many little
islands that were studded here and there over the Ægean
Sea. Some of these islands, it is true, were mere rocks,
desolate and without water. But there were others where
people had already settled and made a home. On these the
strangers landed to fight with the inhabitants, until, by
the help of the gods, they had conquered and taken
possession of them. Here they feasted, glad of heart that
the perils of the sea were now at an end.
In the Heroic Age the kings of the different tribes were
believed to have descended from the gods, and each country
or state had its own king. And so it was when the Heroic
Age had passed away. Each tribe or little nation, living in
its own valley or plain, still had its own separate
sovereign, and each soon built for itself a city. The city
might be small, but it was always surrounded by a wall,
which was built for defence. If there was no wall it was
not a city but a village, however large it might be.
In those days kings were not ashamed to work. They were
often to be seen in the fields at harvest time, not looking
idly on, but toiling side by side with their people.
Odysseus, King of Ithaca, is said to have built his own
bedroom as well as his own boats. He claimed too to be a
skilful ploughman and reaper. And still, for many years
after the age of Odysseus, kings worked as hard as he had
The queens and princesses were as diligent as the kings.
Often they were to be found, like Penelope, sitting at a
loom weaving or working beautiful embroideries. They even
went to the well themselves to fetch water, and were
sometimes to be seen by the riverside, where they helped to
wash the linen of the household.
In battle the king was always on the field, riding before
his army in a war chariot.
 When peace reigned he often sat in the market-place to judge
his people. Each suppliant told his own tale and brought
his own witnesses. The elders of the city then gave their
judgment of the case, after which the king, taking his
sceptre in his hand, stood up to pronounce sentence.
But above all else the king was the chief priest of his
people, offering sacrifices for them, while they, with due
reverence, looked upon him as a god.
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