HOW ATHENS ROSE FROM ITS ASHES
 THE torch of Xerxes and Mardonius left Athens a heap of ashes. But, like the new birth of the fabled phnix,
there rose out of these ashes a city that became the wonder of the world, and whose time-worn ruins are still
worshipped by the pilgrims of art. We cannot proceed with our work without pausing awhile to contemplate this
The old Athens bore to the new much the same relation that the chrysalis bears to the butterfly. It was little
more than an ordinary country town, the capital of a district comparable in size to a modern county.
Pisistratus and his sons had built some temples, and had completed a part of the Dionysiac theatre, but the
city itself was simply a cluster of villages surrounded by a wall; while the citadel had for defence nothing
stronger than a wooden rampart. The giving of this city to the torch was no serious loss; in reality it was a
gain, since it cleared the ground for the far nobler city of later days.
It is not often that a whole nation removes from its home, and its possessions are completely swept away. But
such had been the case with the Attic state. For a time all Attica was afloat, the people of city and country
alike taking to their ships; while a
 locust flight of Persians passed over their lands, ravaging and destroying all before them, and leaving nothing
but the bare soil. Such was what remained to the people of Attica on their return from Salamis and the adjacent
Athens lay before them a heap of ashes and ruin, its walls flung down, its dwellings vanished, its gardens
destroyed, its temples burned. The city itself, and the citadel and sacred structures of its Acropolis, were
swept away, and the business of life on that ravaged soil had to be begun afresh.
Yet Attica as a state was greater than ever before. It was a victor on land and sea, the recognized savior of
Greece; and the people of Athens returned to the ashes of their city not in woe and dismay, but in pride and
exultation. They were victors over the greatest empire then on the face of the earth, the admired of the
nations, the leading power in Greece, and their small loss weighed but lightly against their great glory.
The Athens that rose in place of the old city was a marvel of beauty and art, adorned with hall and temple,
court and gymnasium, colonnade and theatre, while under the active labors of its sculptors it became so filled
with marble inmates that they almost equaled in numbers its living inhabitants. Such sculptors as Phidias and
such painters as Zeuxis adorned the city with the noblest products of their art. The great theatre of Dionysus
was completed, and to it was added a new one, called the Odeon, for musical and poetical representations. On
the Acropolis rose the Parthenon, the splendid temple to
 Minerva, or Athené, the patron goddess of the city, whose ruins are still the greatest marvel of architectural
art. Other temples adorned the Acropolis, and the costly Propylæa, or portals, through which passed the solemn
processions on festival days, were erected at the western side of the hill. The Acropolis was further adorned
with three splendid statues of Minerva, all the work of Phidias, one of ivory in the Parthenon, forty-seven
feet high, the others of bronze, one being of such colossal height that it could be seen from afar by mariners
The city itself was built upon a scale to correspond with this richness of architectural and artistic
adornment, and such was its encouragement to the development of thought and art, that poets, artists, and
philosophers flocked thither from all quarters, and for many years Athens stood before the world as the focal
point of the human intellect.
Not the least remarkable feature in this great growth was the celerity with which it was achieved. The period
between the Persian and the Peloponnesian war was only sixty years in duration. Yet in that brief space of time
the great growth we have chronicled took place, and the architectural splendor of the city was consummated. The
devastation of the unhappy Peloponnesian war put an end to this external growth, and left the Athens of old
frozen into marble, a thing of beauty forever. But the intellectual growth went on, and for centuries
afterwards Athens continued the centre of ancient thought.
And now the question in point is how all this came about, and what made Athens great and glorious
 among the cities of Greece. It all flowed naturally from her eminence in the Persian war. During that war there
had been a league of the states of Greece, with Sparta as its accepted leader. After the war the need of being
on the alert against Persia continued, and Greece became in great part divided into two leagues,—one composed
of Sparta and most of the Peloponnesian states, the other of Athens, the islands of the archipelago, and many
of the towns of Asia Minor and Thrace. This latter was called the League of Delos, since its deputies met and
its treasure was kept in the temple of Apollo on that island.
This League of Delos developed in time to what has been called the Athenian Empire, and in this manner. Each
city of the league pledged itself to make an annual contribution of a certain number of ships or a fixed sum of
money, to be used in war against Persia or for the defence of members of the league. The amount assessed
against each was fixed by Aristides, in whose justice every one trusted. In time the money payment was
considered preferable to that of ships, and most of the states of the league contributed money, leaving Athens
to provide the fleet.
In this way all the power fell into the hands of Athens, and the other cities of the league became virtually
payers of tribute. This was shown later on when some of the island cities declined to pay. Athens sent a fleet,
made conquest of the islands, and reduced them to the state of real tribute payers. Thus the league began to
change into an Athenian dominion.
A REUNION AT THE HOUSE OF ASPASIA.
In 459 B.C. the treasure was removed from Delos
 to Athens. And in the end Chios, Samos, and Lesbos were the only free allies of Athens. All the other members
of the league had been reduced to subjection. Several of the states of Greece also became subject to Athens,
and the Athenian Empire grew into a wealthy, powerful, and extended state.
The treasure laid up at Athens in time became great. The payments amounted to about six hundred talents yearly,
and at one time the treasury of Athens held the great sum of nine thousand seven hundred talents, equal to over
eleven million dollars,—a sum which meant far more then than the equivalent amount would now.
It was this money that made Athens great. It proved to be more than was necessary for defensive war against
Persia, or even for the aggressive war which was carried on in Asia Minor and Egypt. It also more than sufficed
for sending out the colonies which Athens founded in Italy and elsewhere. The remainder of the find was used in
Athens, part of it in building great structures and in producing splendid works of art, part for purposes of
fortification. The Piræus, the port of Athens, was surrounded by strong walls, and a double wall—the famous
"Long Walls"—was constructed from the city to the port, a distance of four miles. These walls, some two hundred
yards apart, left a grand highway between, the channel of a steady traffic which flowed from the sea to the
city, and which for years enabled Athens to defy the cutting off its resources by attack from without. Through
this broad avenue not only provisions and merchandise, but men in multitudes, made
 their way into Athens, until that city became fuller of bustle, energy, political and scholarly activity, and
incessant industry than any of the other cities of the ancient world.
In a city like this, free and equal as were its citizens, and democratic as were its institutions, some men
were sure to rise to the surface and gain controlling influence. In the period in question there were two such
men, Cimon and Pericles, men of such eminence that we cannot pass them by unconsidered. Cimon was the son of
Miltiades, the hero of Marathon, and became the leader of aristocratic Athens, Pericles was the great-grandson
of Cleisthenes, the democratic law-giver, and, though of the most aristocratic descent, became the leader of
the popular party of his native city.
The struggle for precedence between these two men resembled that between Themistocles and Aristides. Cimon was
a strong advocate of an alliance with Sparta, which Pericles opposed. He was brilliant as a soldier, gained
important victories against Persia, but was finally ostracized as a result of his friendship for Sparta. He
came back to Athens afterwards, but his influence could not be regained.
It is, however, of Pericles that we desire particularly to speak,—Pericles, who found Athens poor and made her
magnificent, found her weak and made her glorious. This celebrated statesman had not the dashing qualities of
his rival. He was by nature quiet but deep, serene but profound, the most eloquent orator of his day, and one
of the most learned and able of men. He was dignified and composed in
 manner, possessed of a self-possession which no interruption could destroy, and gifted with a luminous
intelligence that gave him a controlling influence over the thoughtful and critical Athenians of his day.
Pericles was too wise and shrewd to keep himself constantly before the people, or to haunt the assembly. He
sedulously remained in the background until he had something of importance to say, but he then delivered his
message with a skill, force, and animation that carried all his hearers irresistibly away. His logic, wit, and
sarcasm, his clear voice, flashing eyes, and vigorous power of declamation, used only when the occasion was
important, gave him in time almost absolute control in Athens, and had he sought to make himself a despot he
might have done so with a word; but happily he was honest and patriotic enough to content himself with being
the First Citizen of the State.
To make the people happy, and to keep Athens in a condition of serene content, seem to have been leading aims
with Pericles. He entertained them with quickly succeeding theatrical and other entertainments, solemn
banquets, splendid shows and processions, and everything likely to add to their enjoyment. Every year he sent
out eighty galleys on a six months' cruise, filled with citizens who were to learn the art of maritime war, and
who were paid for their services. The citizens were likewise paid for attending the public assembly, and
allowances were made them for the time given to theatrical representations, so that it has been said that
Pericles converted the sober and thrifty Athenians into an
 idle, pleasure-loving, and extravagant populace. At the same time, that things might be kept quiet in Athens,
the discontented overflow of the people were sent out as colonists, to build up daughter cities of Attica in
many distant lands.
Thus it was that Athens developed from the quiet country town of the old regime into the wealthiest, gayest,
and most progressive of Grecian cities, the capital of an empire, the centre of a great commerce, and the home
of a busy and thronging populace, among whom the ablest artists, poets, and philosophers of that age of the
world were included. Here gathered the great writers of tragedy, beginning with Æschylus, whose noble works
were performed at the expense of the state in the great open-air theatre of Dionysus. Here the comedians, the
chief of whom was Aristophanes, moved hosts of spectators to inextinguishable laughter. Here the choicest lyric
poets of Greece awoke admiration with their unequalled songs, at their head the noble Pindar, the laureate of
the Olympic and Pythian games. Here the sophists and philosophers argued and lectured, and Socrates walked like
a king at the head of the aristocracy of thought. Here the sculptors, headed by Phidias, filled temples,
porticos, colonnades, and public places with the most exquisite creations in marble, and the painters with
their marvellous reproductions of nature. Here, indeed, seemed gathered all that was best and worthiest in art,
entertainment, and thought, and for half a century and more Athens remained a city without a rival in the
history of the world.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics