[iii] THE tales in this book are old; some of them, it may
be, are even older than we suppose. But there is always
a new generation to whom the ancient stories must be
told; and the author has spent pleasant hours in trying
to retell some of them for the boys and girls of to-day.
He remembers what joy it was to him to read about
the Greek gods and heroes; and he knows that life has
been brighter to him ever since because of the
knowledge thus gained and the fancies thus kindled. It is
his hope to brighten, if possible, other young lives by
repeating for them the immortal fictions and the
deathless histories which have been delivered to new
audiences for thousands of years.
He feels that he has received valuable help from the
keen insight and fine taste of Mr. George A. Harker,
whose original drawings adorn and illuminate the volume.
The spirit of the book speaks in those animated pictures
where action and feeling are so clearly shown.
These stories belong to no one individual; they are
the heritage of the race. To help the children of the
present time to enter upon this priceless heritage is the
aim and desire of
THE PEOPLE OF OLD GREECE
REECE is a country of clear blue skies, of sunlit,
dancing seas, of tall mountains tipped with snow.
At no place within its borders can you be more than forty
miles from the sea or ten miles from the mountains.
The rivers hurry down the hill-sides, and no boat sails
on their swift current. The winters are very cold, the
summers are scorching hot. In the spring the land is
beautiful with flowers; in the fall it is rich with ripened
fruit and grain. Near the sea-coast grow grapes, olives,
figs, oranges, and melons. Farther up among the hills
barley and wheat and oak trees are found; higher yet are
pine trees and beech trees, and still higher is the line where
snow does not melt even in summer.
Eastward from Greece, the sea is full of islands, some
large, others small. They also were settled by the Greeks.
In the old days each of these was a kingdom by itself.
Some were the homes of pirates who lived by robbing the
vessels which came and went upon the sea. In others
lived the merchants whose ships these pirates robbed.
As the Greeks increased in numbers they sailed from
island to island, and reached the coast of Asia Minor.
There they built cities which afterwards became rich and
[x] Westward an open sea lies between Greece and Italy.
Colonies crossed that water, and settled on the shores
beyond the sea. South of Italy lies the large island of
Sicily, which also became the home of Greeks who built
the famous city of Syracuse.
The first people who made their homes in Greece were
called Pelasgians. We know very little about them,
except that they must have come from Asia, for in the
center of that continent was the earliest home of men.
When that region became too crowded the young and
strong journeyed east, west, north, and south, looking for
new places in which to settle.
At some time, we do not know when, but long before
history began to be written, a wandering tribe entered
Greece. We cannot tell whether they arrived by sea or
land, but very likely it was by sea. They found fertile
soil, large forests, and mountains in which were copper,
silver, and iron. It is said that they already knew how
to farm and that they built cities.
Soon there was the old trouble—not room enough.
The young people hitched their oxen to carts, in which
they put their few bits of furniture, their children, and
the weaker wives, and moved on to find new homes.
This happened many times until Greece was dotted all
over with small villages.
The rest of the world was also in motion. Other
tribes came into this country of Greece and made
themselves masters of its farms and towns. The people who
had once been the free owners of the land now became
slaves, and had to work without pay for others.
[xi] Long afterwards the country was called Hellas, and the
people were known as Hellenes.
The mountain ranges in Greece run, some north and
south, others east and west, so that there are many little
valleys, shut away from each other by the high hills.
These valleys were settled by different tribes, among
whom there was often war, though they were related to
one another and spoke the same language. Those who
had homes among the mountains lived by hunting, and
on the milk and flesh of their sheep and goats. Those
who found more fertile plains became farmers, and raised
grain and fruit. Those who lived near the sea became
fishermen and sailors.
So they lived for many hundreds of years before any
history was written or read. All that time war was going on,
cities were building, states were being founded, little
vessels were sailing on the narrow seas from island to
mainland, men were gradually learning the arts of civilization.
In those dim times cities were begun which afterwards
became famous. Three of these were most important,
Sparta, Athens, and Thebes. Sparta was the capital of a
little district called Laconia or Lacaedemonia. Athens
was the chief city of Attica, and Thebes was the capital
Sparta had no walls. Every citizen was a soldier, and
stood ready to fight for his country night or day.
The people of Thebes and its neighborhood were
considered dull and stupid by those who lived in other states.
Athens became the most splendid city in Greece. Her
citizens loved everything beautiful. Year after year they
[xii] built temples and monuments, carved statues, painted
pictures, studied poetry, music, and the art of public
speaking, and delighted in learning something new.
In the heart of Greece, deep among the mountains, lay
the beautiful valley of Arcadia. The people were
hunters and shepherds; simple, even rude in their manners,
but happy in watching their flocks, and in dancing at
their village festivals. They worshiped the god Pan, but
beat his image if they had bad luck in hunting.
Some of the Greeks were fierce fighters, others were
deep thinkers. For two hundred and fifty years the
history of their little country is the history of the world.
Their stories have gone into the literature of all Western
nations, and nobody can claim to be well-educated who
does not know something of them.
This little book is written that children may learn a
few of the fables and some of the facts which are part of
the treasure of the world. The facts are given as they
are told by Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and
Plutarch. No doubt in the course of years fancy has
mingled with fact so that the clear truth is hard to find.
It is hoped that this little volume may serve as an
introduction to further study for those who have the
opportunity, and that the recollection of its contents may
give life-long pleasure to such as do not pursue their
studies beyond the grammar grade.
NOTE.—In this book will be found many proper names which are
strange to young readers. A list of such names, with their
pronunciation has been placed at the end of the volume.