< home >  4-5-2021

 Source:  https://archive.org/stream/TheStoryOfCivilization02/The%20Story%20of%20Civilization%2002_djvu.txt 

Full text of "The Story Of Civilization 02"

  See other formats


2: The Life of Greece Durant, Will 



Being a history of Greek civilization from the beginnings, 
and of civilization in the Near East from the death of Alexander, 
to the Roman conquest; with an introduction 
on the prehistoric culture of Crete  -by Will Durant 

h  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Crete#Prehistoric_Crete 

 "...  In 2002, the paleontologist Gerard Gierlinski discovered what he claimed were fossil footprints left by ancient human relatives 5,600,000 years ago, but the claim is controversial.[2]

 [ https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform/human-footprints-greece  FEBRUARY 2018 ]

Excavations in South Crete in 2008–2009 revealed stone tools at least 130,000 years old.[3][4] This was a sensational discovery, as the previously accepted earliest sea crossing in the Mediterranean was thought to occur around 12,000 BC.

 The stone tools found in the Plakias region of Crete include hand axes of the Acheulean type made of quartz. It is believed that pre-Homo sapiens hominids from Africa crossed to Crete on rafts.   [5][6][better source needed]

 https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/science/16archeo.html < [5] 

 https://www.wired.com/2010/01/ancient-seafarers/ [6]  

       File:Crete integrated map-en.svg < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crete_integrated_map-en.svg 

In the neolithic period, some of the early influences on the development of Cretan culture arise from the Cyclades and from Egypt; cultural records are written in the undeciphered script known as "Linear A".

 The archaeological record of Crete includes superb palaces, houses, roads, paintings and sculptures. Early Neolithic settlements in Crete include Knossos and Trapeza.

      HHHHH      HHHHH ------- >  EZRA

For the earlier times, radiocarbon dating of organic remains and charcoal offers some dates. Based on this, it is thought that Crete was inhabited from about 130,000 years ago, in the Lower Paleolithic,[7] perhaps not continuously, with a Neolithic farming culture from the 7th millennium BC onwards. The first settlers introduced cattlesheepgoatspigs, and dogs, as well as domesticated cereals and legumes.

The native fauna of Crete included pygmy hippopygmy elephant Paleoloxodon chaniensis, dwarf deer Praemegaceros cretensis, giant mice Kritimys catreus, and insectivores as well as badger, beech marten and Lutrogale cretensis, a kind of terrestrial otter. Large mammalian carnivores were lacking; in their stead, the flightless Cretan owl was the apex predator. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretan_owl ]
Most of these animals died out at the end of the last ice-age. Humans played a part in this extinction, which occurred on other medium to large Mediterranean islands as well;, for example, on CyprusSicily and Majorca.

Remains of a settlement found under the Bronze Age palace at Knossos date to the 7th millennium BC. Up to now, Knossos remains the only aceramic site. The settlement covered approximately 350,000 square metres. The sparse animal bones contain the above-mentioned domestic species as well as deer, badger, marten and mouse: the extinction of the local megafauna had not left much game behind.

Neolithic pottery is known from Knossos, Lera Cave and Gerani Cave. The Late Neolithic sees a proliferation of sites, pointing to a population increase. In the late Neolithic, the donkey and the rabbit were introduced to the island; deer and agrimi were hunted. The Kri-kri, a feral goat, preserves traits of the early domesticates. Horse, fallow deer and hedgehog are only attested from Minoan times onwards. [ https://smarthistory.org/ancient-mediterranean/the-palace-at-knossos-crete/ ]


Copyright (C) 1939 by Will Durant  ::  Copyright renewed (C) 1966 by Will Durant 

Exclusive electronic rights granted to World Library, Inc.  -- by The Ethel B. Durant Trust, William James Durant Easton,  and Monica Ariel Mihell. 

Electronically Enhanced Text (c) Copyright 1994 World Library, Inc. 



MY purpose is to record and contemplate the origin, growth,  maturity, and decline of Greek civilization from the oldest remains of  Crete and Troy to the conquest of Greece by Rome.


Greece in the Roman era
 describes the Roman conquest of Greece and the period of Greek history when Ancient Greece was dominated by the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire (27 BC-AD 1453), commonly referred to as the Byzantine Empire after about AD 395. The Roman era of Greek history began with the Corinthian defeat in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC. However, before the Achaean War, the Roman Republic had been steadily gaining control of mainland Greece by defeating the Kingdom of Macedon in a series of conflicts known as the Macedonian Wars. The Fourth Macedonian War ended at the Battle of Pydna in 148 BC and defeat of the Macedonian royal pretender Andriscus.

The definitive Roman occupation of the Greek world was established after the Battle of Actium (31 BC), in which Augustus defeated Cleopatra VII, the Greek Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, and the Roman general Mark Antony, and afterwards conquered Alexandria (30 BC), the last great city of Hellenistic Greece.[1] The Roman era of Greek history continued with Emperor Constantine the Great's adoption of Byzantium as Nova Roma, the capital city of the Roman Empire; in AD 330, the city was renamed Constantinople. Afterwards, the Byzantine Empire was in general a polity Greek in culture and language. 


I wish to see and  feel this complex culture not only in the subtle and impersonal rhythm  of its rise and fall, but in the rich variety of its vital elements: 
its ways of drawing a living from the land, and of organizing industry and trade; its experiments with monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, 
dictatorship, and revolution; its manners and morals, its religious practices and beliefs; its education of children, and its regulation 
of the sexes and the family; its homes and temples, markets and  theaters and athletic fields; its poetry and drama, its painting, 
sculpture, architecture, and music; its sciences and inventions, its 
superstitions and philosophies. I wish to see and feel these 
elements not in their theoretical and scholastic isolation, but in 
their living interplay as the simultaneous movements of one great 
cultural organism, with a hundred organs and a hundred million 
cells, but with one body and one soul. 

Excepting machinery, there is hardly anything secular in our culture that does not come from Greece. Schools, gymnasiums, arithmetic, 
geometry, history, rhetoric, physics, biology, anatomy, hygiene, therapy, cosmetics, poetry, music, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, 
theology, agnosticism, skepticism, stoicism, epicureanism, ethics, politics, idealism, philanthropy, cynicism, tyranny, plutocracy, democracy:

these are all Greek words for cultural forms seldom 
originated, but in many cases first matured for good or evil by the 
abounding energy of the Greeks.

All the problems that disturb us today- the cutting down of forests and the erosion of the soil; the 
emancipation of woman and the limitation of the family; the 
conservatism of the established, and the experimentalism of the 
unplaced, in morals, music, and government; the corruptions of 
politics and the perversions of conduct; the conflict of religion 
and science, and the weakening of the supernatural supports of 
morality; the war of the classes, the nations, and the continents; the 
revolutions of the poor against the economically powerful rich, and of 
the rich against the politically powerful poor; the struggle between 
democracy and dictatorship, between individualism and communism, 
between the East and the West- all these agitated, as if for our 
instruction, the brilliant and turbulent life of ancient Hellas. There 
is nothing in Greek civilization that does not illuminate our own. 

We shall try to see the life of Greece both in the mutual interplay of its cultural elements, and in the immense five-act drama of its rise and fall.

We shall begin with Crete and its lately 
resurrected civilization, because apparently from Crete, as well as 

from Asia, came that prehistoric culture of Mycenae and Tiryns which 
slowly transformed the immigrating Achaeans and the invading Dorians 
into civilized Greeks; and we shall study for a moment the virile 
world of warriors and lovers, pirates and troubadours, that has come 
down to us on the rushing river of Homer's verse.

We shall watch the  rise of Sparta and Athens under Lycurgus and Solon, and shall trace 
the colonizing spread of the fertile Greeks through all the isles of 
the Aegean, the coasts of Western Asia and the Black Sea, of Africa 
and Italy, Sicily, France, and Spain.

We shall see democracy 
fighting for its life at Marathon, stimulated by its victory, 
organizing itself under Pericles, and flowering into the richest 
culture in history; we shall linger with pleasure over the spectacle 
of the human mind liberating itself from superstition, creating new 
sciences, rationalizing medicine, secularizing history, and reaching 
unprecedented peaks in poetry and drama, philosophy, oratory, history, 
and art; and we shall record with melancholy the suicidal end of the 
Golden Age in the Peloponnesian War.  
 < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peloponnesian_War

We shall contemplate the gallant effort of disordered Athens to recover from the blow of her 
defeat; even her decline will be illustrious with the genius of 
Plato and Aristotle, Apelles and Praxiteles, Philip and Demosthenes, 
Diogenes and Alexander. Then, in the wake of Alexander's generals,  we shall see Greek civilization, too powerful for its little 
peninsula, bursting its narrow bounds, and overflowing again into 
Asia, Africa, and Italy; teaching the cult of the body and the intellect to the mystical Orient, reviving the glories of Egypt in 
Ptolemaic Alexandria, and enriching Rhodes with trade and art; 
developing geometry with Euclid at Alexandria and Archimedes at 
Syracuse; formulating in Zeno and Epicurus the most lasting 
philosophies in history; carving the Aphrodite of Melos [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo ], the 
Laocoon, the Victory of Samothrace, and the Altar of Pergamum; striving and failing to organize its politics into honesty, unity, and peace; sinking ever deeper into the chaos of civil and class war; 
exhausted in soil and loins and spirit; surrendering to the autocracy, quietism, and mysticism of the Orient; and at last almost welcoming  those conquering Romans through whom dying Greece would bequeath to Europe her sciences, her philosophies, her letters, and her arts as 
the living cultural basis of our modern world. 
Venus de Milo on display at the Louvre


I am grateful to Mr. Wallace Brockway for his scholarly help at 
every stage of this work; to Miss Mary Kaufman, Miss Ethel Durant, and 
Mr. Louis Durant for aid in classifying the material; to Miss Regina 
Sands for her expert preparation of the manuscript; and to my wife for 
her patient encouragement and quiet inspiration. 

I am deeply indebted to Sir Gilbert Murray and to his publishers, 
the Oxford University Press, for permission to quote from his 
translations of Greek drama. These translations have enriched English literature. 

I am also indebted to the Oxford University Press for permission 
to quote from its excellent Oxford Book of Greek Verse in Translation. 

W. D. 


1. This book, while forming the second part of the author's Story 
of Civilization, has been written as an independent unit, complete in 
itself. The next volume will probably appear in 1943 under the title 
of Caesar and Christ - a history of Roman civilization and of early Christianity. 

2. To bring the book into smaller compass, reduced type (like 
this) has been used for technical or recondite material. Indented 
passages in reduced type are quotations. 

3. The raised numbers in the text refer to the Notes at the end of 
the volume. Hiatuses in the numbering of the notes are due to last 
minute curtailments. 

4. The chronological table given at the beginning of each period 
is designed to free the text as far as possible from minor dates and 
royal trivialities. All dates are B.C. unless otherwise stated or 

5. The maps at the beginning and the end of the book show nearly all 
the places referred to in the text. The glossary defines all 
unfamiliar foreign words used, except when these are explained where 
they occur. The starred titles in the bibliography may serve as a 
guide to further reading. The index pronounces ancient names, and 
gives dates of birth and death where known. 

6. Greek words have been transliterated into our alphabet 
according to the rules formulated by the Journal of Hellenic 
Studies; certain inconsistencies in these rules must be forgiven as 
concessions to custom; e.g., Hieron, *02000 but Plato (n); Hippodameia, but Alexandr(e)ia. 

7. In pronouncing Greek words not established in English usage, 

a should be sounded as in father, e as in neigh, i as in 
machine, o as in bone, u as in June, y like French u or German 
u (with umlaut), ai and ei like ai in aisle, ou as in 
route, c as in car, eh as in chorus, g as in go, z like dz in adze. 



NOTES: All dates are approximate. Individuals are placed at their time of flourishing, which is assumed to be about forty years after 
their birth; their dates of birth and death, where possible, are given in the index.

Dates of rulers are for their reigns. A question mark
[?] before an entry indicates a date given only by Greek tradition. 

B.C. 9000: Neolithic Age in Crete 

3400-3000: Early Minoan, Helladic, Cycladic, I 
3400-2100: Neolithic Age in Thessaly 
3400-1200: Bronze Age in Crete 
3000-2600: Early Minoan, Helladic, Cycladic, II 
3000: Copper mined in Cyprus 
2870: First known settlement at Troy 
2600-2350: Early Minoan, Helladic, Cycladic, III 
2350-2100: Middle Minoan, Helladic, Cycladic, I 
2200-1200: Bronze Age in Cyprus 

2100-1950: Middle Minoan, Helladic, Cycladic, II; first series of  Cretan palaces 

2100-1600: Chalcolithic Age in Thessaly 
1950-1600: Middle Minoan, Helladic, Cycladic, III 

1900: Destruction of first series of Cretan palaces 
1600-1500: Late Minoan, Helladic (Mycenaean), Cycladic, I; second series of Cretan palaces 
1600-1200: Bronze Age in Thessaly 

1582: ? Foundation of Athens by Cecrops 
1500-1400: Late Minoan, Helladic (Mycenaean), Cycladic, II 
1450-1400: Destruction of second series of Cretan palaces 
1433: ? Deucalion and the Flood 

1400-1200: Late Minoan, Helladic (Mycenaean), Cycladic, III; palaces of Tiryns and Mycenae 
1313: ? Foundation of Thebes by Cadmus 
1300-1100: Age of Achaean domination in Greece 
1283: ? Coming of Pelops into Elis 
1261-1209: ? Heracles 

1250: Theseus at Athens; Oedipus at Thebes; Minos and Daedalus at Cnossus 

1250-1183: "Sixth city" of Troy; age of the Homeric heroes 
1225: ? Voyage of the Argonauts 
1213: ? War of the Seven against Thebes 
1200: ? Accession of Agamemnon 
1192-1183: ? Siege of Troy 

1176: ? Accession of Orestes 
1104: ? Dorian invasion of Greece 

 [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/365_Crete_earthquake ]



AS we enter the fairest of all waters, leaving behind us the Atlantic and Gibraltar, we pass at once into the arena of Greek history. "Like frogs around a pond," said Plato, "we have settled down 
upon the shores of this sea."

'02011 Even on these distant coasts the Greeks founded precarious, barbarian-bound colonies many centuries before Christ: at Hemeroscopium and Ampurias in Spain, at Marseilles 
and Nice in France, and almost everywhere in southern Italy and Sicily.
Greek colonists established prosperous towns at Cyrene in 
northern Africa, and at Naucratis in the delta of the Nile; their 
restless enterprise stirred the islands of the Aegean and the coasts 
of Asia Minor then as in our century; all along the Dardanelles and 
the Sea of Marmora and the Black Sea they built towns and cities for 
their far-venturing trade. Mainland Greece was but a small part of the 
ancient Greek world. 

Why was it that the second group of historic civilizations took form 
on the Mediterranean, as the first had grown up along the rivers of 
Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India, as the third would flourish on the 
Atlantic, and as the fourth may appear on the shores of the Pacific? 

Was it the better climate of the lands washed by the Mediterranean? 
There, then as now, '02012 winter rains nourished the earth, and 
moderate frosts stimulated men; there, almost all the year round, 
one might live an open-air life under a warm but not enervating sun. 

And yet the surface of the Mediterranean coasts and islands is nowhere 
so rich as the alluvial valleys of the Ganges, the Indus, the 
Tigris, the Euphrates, or the Nile; the summer's drought may begin too 
soon or last too long; and everywhere a rocky basis lurks under the 
thin crust of the dusty earth. The temperate north and the tropic 
south are both more fertile than these historic lands where patient 
peasants, weary of coaxing the soil, more and more abandoned tillage 
to grow olives and the vine. And at any moment, along one or another 
of a hundred faults, earthquakes might split the ground beneath [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/365_Crete_earthquake ]
men's feet, and frighten them into a fitful piety.

Climate did not draw civilization to Greece; probably it has never made a civilization anywhere. 

What drew men into the Aegean was its islands. The islands were 
beautiful; even a worried mariner must have been moved by the changing 
colors of those shadowed hills that rose like temples out of the 
reflecting sea. Today there are few sights lovelier on the globe; 
and sailing the Aegean, one begins to understand why the men who 
peopled those coasts and isles came to love them almost more than 
life, and, like Socrates, thought exile bitterer than death.

But  further, the mariner was pleased to find that these island jewels were 
strewn in all directions, and at such short intervals that his ship, 
whether going between east and west or between north and south, 
would never be more than forty miles from land. And since the islands, 
like the mainland ranges, were the mountaintops of a once continuous 
territory that had been gradually submerged by a pertinacious 
sea, '02013 some welcome peak always greeted the outlook's eye, and 
served as a beacon to ships that had as yet no compass to guide 
them. Again, the movements of wind and water conspired to help the 
sailor reach his goal. A strong central current flowed from the 
Black Sea into the Aegean, and countercurrents flowed northward 
along the coasts; while the northeasterly etesian winds blew regularly 
in the summer to help back to their southern ports the ships that 
had gone to fetch grain, fish, and furs from the Euxine Sea.  (  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea  )
English writers of the 18th century often used Euxine Sea (/ˈjuːksɪn/ or /ˈjuːkˌsaɪn/).[31] During the Ottoman Empire, it was called either Bahr-e Siyah or Karadeniz, both meaning "Black Sea" in Turkish.[32] ]
*02001  File:Black Sea map.png < note TURKEY
Fog was rare in the Mediterranean, and the unfailing sunshine so 
varied the coastal winds that at almost any harbor, from spring to 
autumn, one might be carried out by a morning, and brought back by 
an evening, breeze. 

In these propitious waters the acquisitive Phoenicians and the 
amphibious Greeks developed the art and science of navigation. Here 
they built ships for the most part larger or faster, and yet more 
easily handled, than any that had yet sailed the Mediterranean. 

Slowly, despite pirates and harassing uncertainties, the water 
routes from Europe and Africa into Asia- through Cyprus, Sidon, and 
Tyre, or through the Aegean and the Black Sea- became cheaper than the 
long land routes, arduous and perilous, that had carried so much of 
the commerce of Egypt and the Near East. Trade took new lines, 
multiplied new populations, and created new wealth. Egypt, then 
Mesopotamia, then Persia withered; Phoenicia deposited an empire of  cities along the African coast, in Sicily, and in Spain; and Greece 
blossomed like a watered rose. 


"There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water; and therein are many men past counting, and ninety cities."

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0136%3Abook%3D19%3Acard%3D148#:~:text=There%20is%20a%20land%20called,past%20counting%2C%20and%20ninety%20cities.&text=There%20dwell%20Achaeans%2C%20there%20great,waving%20plumes%2C%20and%20goodly%20Pelasgians.  ]

When Homer sang these lines, 
perhaps in the ninth century before our era, *02002 Greece had 
almost forgotten, though the poet had not, that the island whose 
wealth seemed to him even then so great had once been wealthier still; 
that it had held sway with a powerful fleet over most of the Aegean 
and part of mainland Greece; and that it had developed, a thousand years before the siege of Troy, one of the most artistic civilizations 
in history. Probably it was this Aegean culture- as ancient to him 
as he is to us- that Homer recalled when he spoke of a Golden Age in 
which men had been more civilized, and life more refined, than in 
his own disordered time. 

The rediscovery of that lost civilization is one of the major 
achievements of modern archeology.

Here was an island twenty times 
larger than the largest of the Cyclades, pleasant in climate, varied 
in the products of its fields and once richly wooded hills, and 
strategically placed, for trade or war, midway between Phoenicia and 
Italy, between Egypt and Greece. Aristotle had pointed out how 
excellent this situation was, and how "it had enabled Minos to acquire 
the empire of the Aegean." '02015 But the story of Minos, accepted 
as fact by all classical writers, was rejected as legend by modern 
scholars; and until sixty years ago it was the custom to suppose, with 
Grote, that the history of civilization in the Aegean had begun with 
the Dorian invasion, or the Olympic games. Then in A.D. 1878 a 
Cretan merchant, appropriately named Minos Kalokairinos, unearthed 
some strange antiquities on a hillside south of Candia. *02003 The 
great Schliemann, who had but lately resurrected Mycenae and Troy, 
visited the site in 1886, announced his conviction that it covered the 
remains of the ancient Cnossus, and opened negotiations with the owner 
of the land so that excavations might begin at once. But the owner 
haggled and tried to cheat; and Schliemann, who had been a merchant 

before becoming an archeologist, withdrew in anger, losing a golden 
chance to add another civilization to history. A few years later he 
died. 02016 

In 1893 a British archeologist, Dr. Arthur Evans, bought in Athens a 
number of milkstones from Greek women who had worn them as amulets. He 
was curious about the hieroglyphics engraved upon them, which no 
scholar could read. Tracing the stones to Crete, he secured passage 
thither, and wandered about the island picking up examples of what 
he believed to be ancient Cretan writing. In 1895 he purchased a part, 
and in 1900 the remainder, of the site that Schliemann and the 
French School at Athens had identified with Cnossus; and in nine weeks 
of that spring, digging feverishly with one hundred and fifty men, 
he exhumed the richest treasure of modern historical research- the 
palace of Minos. Nothing yet known from antiquity could equal the 
vastness of this complicated structure, to an appearances identical 
with the almost endless Labyrinth so famous in old Greek tales of 
Minos, Daedalus, Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur. In these and 
other ruins, as if to confirm Evans' intuition, thousands of seals and 
clay tablets were found, bearing characters like those that had set 
him upon the trail. The fires that had destroyed the palaces of 
Cnossus had preserved these tablets, whose undeciphered pictographs 
and scripts still conceal the early story of the Aegean. *02004 

Students from many countries now hurried to Crete. While Evans was 
working at Cnossus, a group of resolute Italians- Halbherr, Pernier, 
Savignoni, Paribeni- unearthed at Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity) a 
sarcophagus painted with illuminating scenes from Cretan life, and 
uncovered at Phaestus a palace only less extensive than that of the 
Cnossus kings. Meanwhile two Americans, Seager and Mrs. Hawes, made 
discoveries at Vasiliki, Mochlos, and Gournia; the British- Hogarth, 
Bosanquet, Dawkins, Myres- explored Palaikastro, Psychro, and Zakro; 
the Cretans themselves became interested, and Xanthoudidis and 
Hatzidakis dug up ancient residences, grottoes, and tombs at 
Arkalochori, Tylissus, Koumasa, and Chamaizi. Half the nations of 
Europe united under the flag of science in the very generation in 
which their statesmen were preparing for war. 

How was all this material to be classified- these palaces, 
paintings, statues, seals, vases, metals, tablets, and reliefs?- to 
what period of the past were they to be assigned? Precariously, but 
with increasing corroboration as research went on and knowledge 
grew, Evans dated the relics according to the depth of their strata, 
the gradation of styles in the pottery, and the agreement of Cretan 
finds, in form or motive, with like objects exhumed in lands or 
deposits whose chronology was approximately known. Digging down 
patiently beneath Cnossus, he found himself stopped, some 
forty-three feet below the surface, by the virgin rock. The lower half 
of the excavated area was occupied by remains characteristic of the 
Neolithic Age- primitive forms of handmade pottery with simple 
linear ornament, spindle whorls for spinning and weaving, 
fat-buttocked goddesses of painted steatite or clay, tools and weapons 
of polished stone, but nothing in copper or bronze. *02005 
Classifying the pottery, and correlating the remains with those of 
ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, Evans divided the post-neolithic and 
prehistoric culture of Crete into three ages- Early, Middle, and 
Late Minoan- and each of these into three periods. *02006 

The first or lowest appearance of copper in the strata represents 
for us, through a kind of archeological shorthand, the slow rise of 
a new civilization out of the neolithic stage. By the end of the Early 
Minoan Age the Cretans learn to mix copper with tin, and the Bronze 
Age begins. In Middle Minoan I the earliest palaces occur: the princes 
of Cnossus, Phaestus, and Mallia build for themselves luxurious 
dwellings with countless rooms, spacious storehouses, specialized 
workshops, altars and temples, and great drainage conduits that 
startle the arrogant Occidental eye. Pottery takes on a many-colored 
brilliance, walls are enlivened with charming frescoes, and a form 
of linear script evolves out of the hieroglyphics of the preceding 
age. Then, at the close of Middle Minoan II, some strange 
catastrophe writes its cynical record into the strata; the palace of 
Cnossus is laid low as if by a convulsion of the earth, or perhaps 

by an attack from Phaestus, whose palace for a time is spared. But a 
little later a like destruction falls upon Phaestus, Mochlos, Gournia, 
Palaikastro, and many other cities in the island; the pottery is 
covered with ashes, the great jars in the storerooms are filled with 
debris. Middle Minoan III is a period of comparative stagnation, in 
which, perhaps, the southeastern Mediterranean world is long 
disordered by the Hyksos conquest of Egypt. '02019 

In the late Minoan Age everything begins again. Humanity, patient 
under every cataclysm, renews its hope, takes courage, and builds once 
more. New and liner palaces rise at Cnossus, Phaestus, Tylissus, Hagia 
Triada, and Gournia. The lordly spread, the five-storied height, the 
luxurious decoration of these princely residences suggest such 
wealth as Greece would not know till Pericles. Theaters are erected in 
the palace courts, and gladiatorial spectacles of men and women in 
deadly combat with animals amuse gentlemen and ladies whose 
aristocratic faces, quietly alert, still live for us on the bright 
frescoes of the resurrected walls. Wants are multiplied, tastes are 
refined, literature flourishes; a thousand industries graciously 
permit the poor to prosper by supplying comforts and delicacies to the 
rich. The halls of the king are noisy with scribes taking 
inventories of goods distributed or received; with artists making 
statuary, paintings, pottery, or reliefs; with high officials 
conducting conferences, hearing judicial appeals, or dispatching 
papers stamped with their finely wrought seals; while wasp-waisted 
princes and jeweled duchesses, alluringly decollete, crowd to a 
royal feast served on tables shining with bronze and gold. The 
sixteenth and fifteenth centuries before our era are the zenith of 
Aegean civilization, the classic and golden age of Crete. 


If now we try to restore this buried culture from the relics that 
remain- playing Cuvier to the scattered bones of Crete- let us 
remember that we are engaging upon a hazardous kind of historical 
television, in which imagination must supply the living continuity 
in the gaps of static and fragmentary material artificially moving but 
long since dead. Crete will remain inwardly unknown until its secretive tablets find their Champollion. 

1. Men and Women 

As we see them self-pictured in their art, the Cretans curiously 
resemble the double ax so prominent in their religious symbolism. Male 
and female alike have torsos narrowing pathologically to an 
ultramodern waist. Nearly all are short in stature, slight and 
supple of build, graceful in movement, athletically trim. Their skin 
is white at birth. The ladies, who court the shade, have fair 
complexions conventionally pale; but the men, pursuing wealth under 
the sun, are so tanned and ruddy that the Greeks will call them (as 
well as the Phoenicians) Phoinikes - the Purple Ones, Redskins. The 
head is rather long than broad, the features are sharp and refined, 
the hair and eyes are brilliantly dark, as in the Italians of today; 
these Cretans are apparently a branch of the "Mediterranean 
race." *02007 The men as well as the women wear their hair partly in 
coils on the head or the neck, partly in ringlets on the brow, 
partly in tresses falling upon the shoulders or the breast. The 
women add ribbons for their curls, while the men, to keep their 
faces clean, provide themselves with a variety of razors, even in 
the grave. '020110 

The dress is as strange as the figures. On their heads- most often 
bare- the men have turbans or tam-o'-shanters, the women magnificent 
hats of our early twentieth-century style. The feet are usually free 
of covering; but the upper classes may bind them in white leather 
shoes, which among women may be daintily embroidered at the edges, 
with colored beads on the straps. Ordinarily the male has no 
clothing above the waist; there he wears a short skirt or 
waistcloth, occasionally with a codpiece for modesty. The skirt may be 
slit at the side in workingmen; in dignitaries and ceremonies it 
reaches in both sexes to the ground. Occasionally the men wear 
drawers, and in winter a long outer garment of wool or skins. The 
clothing is tightly laced about the middle, for men as well as women 
are resolved to be- or seem- triangularly slim. '020111 To rival the 
men at this point, the women of the later periods resort to stiff 
corsets, which gather their skirts snugly around their hips, and 

lift their bare breasts to the sun. It is a pretty custom among the 
Cretans that the female bosom should be uncovered, or revealed by a 
diaphanous chemise; '020112 no one seems to take offense. The bodice 
is laced below the bust, opens in a careless circle, and then, in a 
gesture of charming reserve, may close in a Medici collar at the neck. 
The sleeves are short, sometimes puffed. The skirt, adorned with 
flounces and gay tints, widens out spaciously from the hips, stiffened 
presumably with metal ribs or horizontal hoops. There are in the 
arrangement and design of Cretan feminine dress a warm harmony of 
colors, a grace of line, a delicacy of taste, that suggest a rich 
and luxurious civilization, already old in arts and wiles. In these 
matters the Cretans had no influence upon the Greeks; only in modern 
capitals have their styles triumphed. Even staid archeologists have 
given the name La Parisienne to the portrait of a Cretan lady with 
profulgent bosom, shapely neck, sensual mouth, impudent nose, and a 
persuasive, provocative charm; she sits saucily before us today as 
part of a frieze in which high personages gaze upon some spectacle 
that we shall never see. '020113 

The men of Crete are evidently grateful for the grace and 
adventure that women give to life, for they provide them with costly 
means of enhancing their loveliness. The remains are rich in jewelry 
of many kinds: hairpins of copper and gold, stickpins adorned with 
golden animals or flowers, or heads of crystal or quartz; rings or 
spirals of filigree gold mingling with the hair, fillets or diadems of 
precious metal binding it; rings and pendants hanging from the ear, 
plaques and beads and chains on the breast, bands and bracelets on the 
arm, finger rings of silver, steatite, agate, carnelian, amethyst, 
or gold. The men keep some of the jewelry for themselves: if they 
are poor they carry necklaces and bracelets of common stones; if 
they can afford it they flaunt great rings engraved with scenes of 
battle or the chase. The famous Cupbearer wears on the biceps of his 
left arm a broad band of precious metal, and on the wrist a bangle 
inlaid with agate. Everywhere in Cretan life man expresses his vainest 
and noblest passion- the zeal to beautify. 

This use of man to signify all humanity reveals the prejudice of a 
patriarchal age, and hardly suits the almost matriarchal life of 
ancient Crete. For the Minoan woman does not put up with any 

Oriental seclusion, any purdah or harem; there is no sign of her being 
limited to certain quarters of the house, or to the home. She works 
there, doubtless, as some women do even today; she weaves clothing and 
baskets, grinds grain, and bakes bread. But also she labors with men 
in the fields and the potteries, she mingles freely with them in the 
crowds, she takes the front seat at the theater and the games, she 
sweeps through Cretan society with the air of a great lady bored 
with adoration; and when her nation creates its gods it is more 
often in her likeness than in man's. Sober students, secretly and 
forgivably enamored of the mother image in their hearts, bow down 
before her relics, and marvel at her domination. '020114 

2. Society 

Hypothetically we picture Crete as at first an island divided by its 
mountains among petty jealous clans which live in independent villages 
under their own chiefs, and light, after the manner of men, 
innumerable territorial wars. Then a resolute leader appears who 
unites several clans into a kingdom, and builds his fortress palace at 
Cnossus, Phaestus, Tylissus, or some other town. The wars become 
less frequent, more widespread, and more efficient in killing; at last 
the cities light for the entire island, and Cnossus wins. The victor 
organizes a navy, dominates the Aegean, suppresses piracy, exacts 
tribute, builds palaces, and patronizes the arts, like an early 
Pericles. '020119 It is as difficult to begin a civilization without 
robbery as it is to maintain it without slaves. *02008 

The power of the king, as echoed in the ruins, is based upon 
force, religion, and law. To make obedience easier he suborns the gods 
to his use: his priests explain to the people that he is descended 
from Velchanos, and has received from this deity the laws that he 
decrees; and every nine years, if he is competent or generous, they 
reanoint him with the divine authority. To symbolize his power the 
monarch, anticipating Rome and France, adopts the (double) ax and 
the fleur-de-lis. To administer the state he employs (as the litter of 
tablets suggests) a staff of ministers, bureaucrats, and scribes. He 
taxes in kind, and stores in giant jars his revenues of grain, oil, 
and wine; and out of this treasury, in kind, he pays his men. From his 

throne in the palace, or his judgment seat in the royal villa, he 
settles in person such litigation as has run the gauntlet of his 
appointed courts; and so great is his reputation as a magistrate 
that when he dies he becomes in Hades, Homer assures us, the 
inescapable judge of the dead. '020121 We call him Minos, but we do 
not know his name; probably the word is a title, like Pharaoh or 
Caesar, and covers a multitude of kings. 

At its height this civilization is surprisingly urban. The Iliad 
speaks of Crete's "ninety cities," and the Greeks who conquer them are 
astonished at their teeming populations; even today the student stands 
in awe before the ruined mazes of paved and guttered streets, 
intersecting lanes, and countless shops or houses crowding about 
some center of trade or government in all the huddled gregariousness 
of timid and talkative men. It is not only Cnossus that is great, with 
palaces so vast that imagination perhaps exaggerates the town that 
must have been the chief source and beneficiary of their wealth. 

Across the island, on the southern shore, is Phaestus, from whose 
harbor, Homer tells us, "the dark-prowed ships are borne to Egypt by 
the force of the wind and the wave." '020122 The southbound trade of 
Minoan Crete pours out here, swelled by goods from northern 
merchants who ship their cargoes overland to avoid a long detour by 
perilous seas. Phaestus becomes a Cretan Piraeus, in love with 
commerce rather than with art. And yet the palace of its prince is a 
majestic edifice, reached by a flight of steps forty-five feet wide; 
its halls and courts compare with those at Cnossus; its central 
court is a paved quadrangle of ten thousand square feet; its 
megaron, or reception room, is three thousand square feet in area, 
larger even than the great Hall of the Double Ax in the northern 

Two miles northwest is Hagia Triada, in whose "royal villa" (as 
archeological imagination calls it) the Prince of Phaestus seeks 
refuge from the summer heat. The eastern end of the island, in 
Minoan days, is rich in small towns: ports like Zakro or Mochlos, 
villages like Praesus or Pseira, residential quarters like 
Palaikastro, manufacturing centers like Gournia. The main street in 
Palaikastro is well paved, well drained, and lined with spacious 
homes; one of these has twenty-three rooms on the surviving floor. 

Gournia boasts of avenues paved with gypsum, of homes built with 
mortarless stone, of a blacksmith's shop with extant forge, of a 
carpenter shop with a kit of tools, of small factories noisy with 
metalworking, shoemaking, vasemaking, oil refining, or textile 
industry; the modern workmen who excavate it, and gather up its 
tripods, jars, pottery, ovens, lamps, knives, mortars, polishers, 
hooks, pins, daggers, and swords, marvel at its varied products and 
equipment, and call it he mechanike polis - "the town of 
machinery." '020123 By our standards the minor streets are narrow, 
mere alleys in the style of a semitropical Orient that fears the 
sun; and the rectangular houses, of wood or brick or stone, are for 
the most part confined to a single floor. Yet some Middle Minoan 
plaques exhumed at Cnossus show us homes of two, three, even five 
stories, with a cubicle attic or turret here and there; on the upper 
floors, in these pictured houses, are windows with red panes of 
unknown material. Double doors, swinging on posts apparently of 
cypress wood, open from the ground-floor rooms upon a shaded court. 
Stairways lead to the upper floors and the roof, where the Cretan 
sleeps when the nights are very warm. If he spends the evening indoors 
he lights his room by burning oil, according to his income, in lamps 
of clay, steatite, gypsum, marble, or bronze. '020124 

We know a trifle or two about the games he plays. At home he likes a 
form of chess, for he has bequeathed to us, in the ruins of the 
Cnossus palace, a magnificent gaming board with frame of ivory, 
squares of silver and gold, and a border of seventy-two daisies in 
precious metal and stone. In the fields he takes with zest and 
audacity to the chase, guided by half-wild cats and slender 
thoroughbred hounds. In the towns he patronizes pugilists, and on 
his vases and reliefs he represents for us a variety of contests, in 
which lightweights spar with bare hands and kicking feet, 
middleweights with plumed helmets batter each other manfully, and 
heavyweights, coddled with helmets, cheekpieces, and long padded 
gloves, fight till one falls exhausted to the ground and the other 
stands above him in the conscious grandeur of victory. '020125 

But the Cretan's greatest thrill comes when he wins his way into the 
crowd that fills the amphitheater on a holiday to see men and women 
face death against huge charging bulls. Time and again he pictures the 

stages of this lusty sport: the daring hunter capturing the bull by 
jumping astride its neck as it laps up water from a pool; the 
professional tamer twisting the animal's head until it learns some 
measure of tolerance for the acrobat's annoying tricks; the skilled 
performer, slim and agile, meeting the bull in the arena, grasping its 
horns, leaping into the air, somersaulting over its back, and landing 
feet first on the ground in the arms of a female companion who lends 
her grace to the scene. '020126 Even in Minoan Crete this is already 
an ancient art; a clay cylinder from Cappadocia, ascribed to 2400 
B.C., shows a bull-grappling sport as vigorous and dangerous as in 
these frescoes. '020127 For a moment our oversimplifying intellects 
catch a glimpse of the contradictory complexity of man as we 
perceive that this game of blood-lust and courage, still popular 
today, is as old as civilization. 

3. Religion 

The Cretan may be brutal, but he is certainly religious, with a 
thoroughly human mixture of fetishism and superstition, idealism and 
reverence. He worships mountains, caves, stones, the number 3, trees 
and pillars, sun and moon, goats and snakes, doves and bulls; hardly 
anything escapes his theology. He conceives the air as filled with 
spirits genial or devilish, and hands down to Greece a sylvan-ethereal 
population of dryads, sileni, and nymphs. He does not directly adore 
the phallic emblem, but he venerates with awe the generative 
vitality of the bull and the snake. '020128 Since his death rate is 
high he pays devout homage to fertility, and when he rises to the 
notion of a human divinity he pictures a mother goddess with 
generous mammae and sublime flanks, with reptiles creeping up around 
her arms and breasts, coiled in her hair, or rearing themselves 
proudly from her head. He sees in her the basic fact of nature- that 
man's greatest enemy, death, is overcome by woman's mysterious 
power, reproduction; and he identifies this power with deity. The 
mother goddess represents for him the source of all life, in plants 
and animals as well as in men; if he surrounds her image with fauna 

and flora it is because these exist through her creative fertility, 
and therefore serve as her symbols and her emanations. Occasionally 
she appears holding in her arms her divine child Velchanos, whom she 
has borne in a mountain cave. '020129 Contemplating this ancient 
image, we see through it Isis and Homs, Ishtar and Tammuz, Cybele and 
Attis, Aphrodite and Adonis, and feel the unity of prehistoric 
culture, and the continuity of religious ideas and symbols, in the 
Mediterranean world. 

The Cretan Zeus, as the Greeks call Velchanos, is subordinate to his 
mother in the affections of the Cretans. But he grows in importance. 

He becomes the personification of the fertilizing rain, of the 
moisture that in this religion, as in the philosophy of Thales, 
underlies all things. He dies, and his sepulcher is shown from 
generation to generation on Mt. Iouktas, where the majestic profile of 
his face can still be seen by the imaginative traveler; he rises 
from the grave as a symbol of reviving vegetation, and the Kouretes 
priests celebrate with dances and clashing shields his glorious 
resurrection. '020130 Sometimes, as a god of fertility, he is 
conceived as incarnate in the sacred bull; it is as a bull that he 
mates in Cretan myth with Minos' wife Pasiphae, and begets by her 
the monstrous Minos-bull, or Minotaur. 

To appease these deities the Cretan uses a lavish rite of prayer and 
sacrifice, symbol and ceremony, administered usually by women priests, 
sometimes by officials of the state. To ward off demons he burns 
incense; to arouse a negligent divinity he sounds the conch, plays the 
flute or the lyre, and sings, in chorus, hymns of adoration. To 
promote the growth of orchards and the fields, he waters trees and 
plants in solemn ritual; or his priestesses in nude frenzy shake down 
the ripe burden of the trees; or his women in festal procession carry 
fruits and flowers as hints and tribute to the goddess, who is borne 
in state in a palanquin. He has apparently no temple, but raises 
altars in the palace court, in sacred groves or grottoes, and on 
mountaintops. He adorns these sanctuaries with tables of libation and 
sacrifice, a medley of idols, and "horns of consecration" perhaps 
representative of the sacred bull. He is profuse with holy symbols, 

which he seems to worship along with the gods whom they signify: first 
the shield, presumably as the emblem of his goddess in her warrior 
form; then the cross- in both its Greek and its Roman shapes, and as 
the swastika- cut upon the forehead of a bull or the thigh of a 
goddess, or carved upon seals, or raised in marble in the palace of 
the king; above all, the double ax, as an instrument of sacrifice 
magically enriched with the virtue of the blood that it sheds, or as a 
holy weapon unerringly guided by the god, or even as a sign of Zeus 
the Thunderer cleaving the sky with his bolts. '020131 

Finally he offers a modest care and worship to his dead. He buries 
them in clay coffins or massive jars, for if they are unburied they 
may return. To keep them content below the ground he deposits with 
them modest portions of food, articles for their toilette, and clay 
figurines of women to tend or console them through all eternity. 
Sometimes, with the sly economy of an incipient skeptic, he 
substitutes clay animals in the grave in place of actual food. If he 
buries a king or a noble or a rich trader he surrenders to the 
corpse a part of the precious plate or jewelry that it once possessed; 
with touching sympathy he buries a set of chess with a good player, 
a clay orchestra with a musician, a boat with one who loved the sea. 
Periodically he returns to the grave to offer a sustaining sacrifice 
of food to the dead. He hopes that in some secret Elysium, or 
Islands of the Blest, the just god Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus 
Velchanos, will receive the purified soul, and give it the happiness 
and the peace that slip so elusively through the fingers in this 
earthly quest. 

4. Culture 

The most troublesome aspect of the Cretan is his language. When, 
after the Dorian invasion, he uses the Greek alphabet, it is for a 
speech completely alien to what we know as Greek, and more akin in 

sound to the Egyptian, Cypriote, Hittite, and Anatolian dialects of 
the Near East. In the earliest age he confines himself to 
hieroglyphics; about 1800 B.C. he begins to shorten these into a 
linear script of some ninety syllabic signs; two centuries later he 
contrives another script, whose characters often resemble those of the 
Phoenician alphabet; perhaps it is from him, as well as from the 
Egyptians and the Semites, that the Phoenicians gather together 
those letters they will scatter throughout the Mediterranean to become 
the unassuming, omnipresent instrument of Western civilization. Even 
the common Cretan composes, and like some privy councilor, leaves on 
the walls of Hagia Triada the passing inspirations of his muse. At 
Phaestus we find a kind of prehistoric printing: the hieroglyphs of 
a great disk unearthed there from Middle Minoan III strata are 
impressed upon the clay by stamps, one for each pictograph; but 
here, to add to our befuddlement, the characters are apparently not 
Cretan but foreign; perhaps the disk is an importation from the 
East. 020132 

The clay tablets upon which the Cretan writes may some day reveal to 
us his accomplishments in science. He has some astronomy, for he is 
famed as a navigator, and tradition hands down to Dorian Crete the 
ancient Minoan calendar. The Egyptians acknowledge their 
indebtedness to him for certain medical prescriptions, and the 
Greeks borrow from him, as the words suggest, such aromatic and 
medicinal herbs as mint ( mintha), wormwood ( apsinthon ), and an 
ideal drug ( daukos ) reputed to cure obesity without disturbing 
gluttony. '020133 But we must not mistake our guessing for history. 

Though the Cretan's literature is a sealed book to us, we may at 
least contemplate the rains of his theaters. At Phaestus, about 
2000, he builds ten tiers of stone seats, running some eighty feet 
along a wall overlooking a flagged court; at Cnossus he raises, 
again in stone, eighteen tiers thirty-three feet long, and, at right 
angles to them, six tiers from eighteen to fifty feet in length. These 
court theaters, seating four or five hundred persons, are the most 
ancient playhouses known to us- older by fifteen hundred years than 
the Theater of Dionysus. We do not know what took place on those 

stages; frescoes picture audiences viewing a spectacle, but we 
cannot tell what it is that they see. Very likely it is some 
combination of music and dance. A painting from Cnossus preserves a 
group of aristocratic ladies, surrounded by their gallants, watching a 
dance by gaily petticoated girls in an olive grove; another represents 
a Dancing Woman with flying tresses and extended arms; others show 
us rustic folk dances, or the wild dance of priests, priestesses, 
and worshipers before an idol or a sacred tree. Homer describes the 
"dancing-floor which once, in broad Cnossus, Daedalus made for Ariadne 
of the lovely hair; there youths and seductive maidens join hands in 
the dance... and a divine bard sets the time to the sound of the 
lyre." '020134 The seven-stringed lyre, ascribed by the Greeks to 
the inventiveness of Terpander, is represented on a sarcophagus at 
Hagia Triada a thousand years before Terpander's birth. There, too, is 
the double flute, with two pipes, eight holes, and fourteen notes, 
precisely as in classical Greece. Carved on a gem, a woman blows a 
trumpet made from an enormous conch, and on a vase we see the 
sistrum beating time for the dancers' feet. 

The same youthful freshness and lighthearted grace that animate 
his dances and his games enliven the Cretan's work in the arts. He has 
not left us, aside from his architecture, any accomplishments of 
massive grandeur or exalted style; like the Japanese of samurai days 
he delights rather in the refinement of the lesser and more intimate 
arts, the adornment of objects daily used, the patient perfecting of 
little things. As in every aristocratic civilization, he accepts 
conventions in the form and subject of his work, avoids extravagant 
novelties, and learns to be free even within the limitations of 
reserve and taste. He excels in pottery, gem cutting, bezel carving, 
and reliefs, for here his microscopic skill finds every stimulus and 
opportunity. He is at home in the working of silver and gold, sets all 
the precious stones, and makes a rich diversity of jewels. Upon the 
seals that he cuts to serve as official signatures, commercial labels, 
or business forms, he engraves in delicate detail so much of the 
life and scenery of Crete that from them alone we might picture his 
civilization. He hammers bronze into basins, ewers, daggers, and 
swords ornamented with floral and animal designs, and inlaid with gold 

and silver, ivory and rare stones. At Gournia he has left us, 
despite the thieves of thirty centuries, a silver cup of finished 
artistry; and here and there he has molded for us rhytons, or drinking 
horns, rising out of human or animal heads that to this day seem to 
hold the breath of life. 

As a potter he tries every form, and reaches distinction in nearly 
all of them. He makes vases, dishes, cups, chalices, lamps, jars, 
animals, and gods. At first, in Early Minoan, he is content to shape 
the vessel with his hands along lines bequeathed to him from the 
Neolithic Age, to paint it with a glaze of brown or black, and to 
trust the fire to mottle the color into haphazard tints. In Middle 
Minoan he has learned the use of the wheel, and rises to the height of 
his skill. He makes a glaze rivaling the consistency and delicacy of 
porcelain; he scatters recklessly black and brown, white and red, 
orange and yellow, crimson and vermilion, and mingles them happily 
into novel shades; he fines down the clay with such confident 
thoroughness that in his most perfect product- the graceful and 
brightly colored "eggshell" wares found in the cave of Kamares on 
Mt. Ida's slopes- he has dared to thin the walls of the vessel to a 
millimeter's thickness, and to pour out upon it all the motifs of 
his rich imagination. From 2100 to 1950 is the apogee of the Cretan 
potter; he signs his name to his work, and his trade-mark is sought 
throughout the Mediterranean. In the Late Minoan Age he brings to full 
development the technique of faience, and forms the brilliant paste 
into decorative plaques, vases of turquoise blue, polychrome 
goddesses, and marine reliefs so realistic that Evans mistook an 
enamel crab for a fossil. '020135 Now the artist falls in love with 
nature, and delights to represent on his vessels the liveliest 
animals, the gaudiest fish, the most delicate flowers, and the most 
graceful plants. It is in Late Minoan I that he creates his 
surviving masterpieces, the Boxers' Vase and the Harvesters' Vase: 
in the one he presents us crudely with every aspect and attitude of 
the pugilistic game, adding a zone of scenes from the bull-leaper's 
life; in the other he follows with fond fidelity a procession probably 
of peasants marching and singing in some harvest festival. Then the 
great tradition of Cretan pottery grows weak with age, and the art 

declines; reserve and taste are forgotten, decoration overruns the 
vase in bizarre irregularity and excess, the courage for slow 
conception and patient execution breaks down, and a lazy 
carelessness called freedom replaces the finesse and tinish of the 
Kamares age. It is a forgivable decay, the unavoidable death of an old 
and exhausted art, which will lie in refreshing sleep for a thousand 
years, and be reborn in the perfection of the Attic vase. 

Sculpture is a minor art in Crete, and except in bas-relief and 
the story of Daedalus, seldom graduates from the statuette. Many of 
these little figures are stereotyped crudities seemingly produced by 
rote; one is a delightful snapshot in ivory of an athlete plunging 
through the air; another is a handsome head that has lost its body 
on the way down the centuries. The best of them excels in anatomical 
precision and in vividness of action anything that we know from Greece 
before Myron's time. The strangest is the Snake Goddess of the 
Boston Museum- a sturdy figure of ivory and gold, half mammae and half 
snakes; here at last the Cretan artist treats the human form with some 
amplitude and success. But when he essays a larger scale he falls back 
for the most part upon animals, and coniines himself to painted 
reliefs, as in the bull's head in the Heracleum Museum; in this 
startling relic the fixed wild eyes, the snorting nostrils, the 
gasping mouth, and the trembling tongue achieve a power that Greece 
itself will never surpass. 

Nothing else in ancient Crete is quite so attractive as its 
painting. The sculpture is negligible, the pottery is fragmentary, the 
architecture is in ruins; but this frailest of all the arts, easy 
victim of indifferent time, has left us legible and admirable 
masterpieces from an age so old that it slipped quite out of the 
memory of that classic Greece of whose painting, by contrast so 
recent, not one original remains. In Crete the earthquakes or the wars 
that overturned the palaces preserved here and there a frescoed 
wall; and wandering by them we molt forty centuries and meet the men 
who decorated the rooms of the Minoan kings. As far back as 2500 
they make wall coatings of pure lime, and conceive the idea of 
painting in fresco upon the wet surface, wielding the brush so rapidly 

that the colors sink into the stucco before the surface dries. Into 
the dark halls of the palaces they bring the bright beauty of the open 
fields; they make plaster sprout lilies, tulips, narcissi, and sweet 
marjoram; no one viewing these scenes could ever again suppose that 
nature was discovered by Rousseau. In the museum at Heracleum the 
Saffron Picker is as eager to pluck the crocus as when his creator 
painted him in Middle Minoan days; his waist is absurdly thin, his 
body seems much too long for his legs; and yet his head is perfect, 
the colors are soft and warm, the flowers still fresh after four 
thousand years. At Hagia Triada the painter brightens a sarcophagus 
with spiral scrolls and queer, almost Nubian figures engrossed in some 
religious ritual; better yet, he adorns a wall with waving foliage, 
and then places in the midst of it, darkly but vividly, a stout, tense 
cat preparing to spring unseen upon a proud bird preening its 
plumage in the sun. In Late Minoan the Cretan painter is at the top of 
his stride; every wall tempts him, every plutocrat calls him; he 
decorates not merely the royal residences but the homes of nobles 
and burghers with all the lavishness of Pompeii. Soon, however, 
success and a surfeit of commissions spoil him; he is too anxious to 
be finished to quite touch perfection; he scatters quantity about him, 
repeats his flowers monotonously, paints his men impossibly, 
contents himself with sketching outlines, and falls into the lassitude 
of an art that knows that it has passed its zenith and must die. But 
never before, except perhaps in Egypt, has painting looked so 
freshly at the face of nature. 

All the arts come together to build the Cretan palaces. Political 
power, commercial mastery, wealth and luxury, accumulated refinement 
and taste commandeer the architect, the builder, the artisan, the 
sculptor, the potter, the metalworker, the woodworker, and the painter 
to fuse their s ki lls in producing an assemblage of royal chambers, 
administrative offices, court theaters, and arenas, to serve as the 
center and summit of Cretan life. They build in the twenty-first 
century, and the twentieth sees their work destroyed; they build again 
in the seventeenth, not only the palace of Minos but many other 

splendid edifices at Cnossus, and in half a hundred other cities in 
the thriving island. It is one of the great ages in architectural 

The creators of the Cnossus palace are limited in both materials and 
men. Crete is poor in metal and quite devoid of marble; therefore they 
build with limestone and gypsum, and use wood for entablatures, roofs, 
and all columns above the basement floor. They cut the stone blocks so 
sharply that they can put them together without mortar. Around a 
central court of twenty thousand square feet they raise to three or 
four stories, with spacious stairways of stone, a rambling maze of 
rooms- guardhouses, workshops, wine press, storerooms, 
administrative offices, servants' quarters, anterooms, reception 
rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, chapel, dungeon, throne room, and a 
"Hall of the Double Ax"; adding near by the conveniences of a theater, 
a royal villa, and a cemetery. On the lowest floor they plant 
massive square pillars of stone; on the upper floors they use circular 
columns of cypress, tapering strangely downward, to support the 
ceilings upon smooth round capitals, or to form shady porticoes at the 
side. Safe in the interior against a gracefully decorated wall they 
set a stone seat, simply but skillfully carved, which eager diggers 
will call the throne of Minos, and on which every tourist will 
modestly seat himself and be for a moment some inches a king. This 
sprawling palace in all likelihood is the famous Labyrinth, or 
sanctuary of the Double Ax (labrys), attributed by the ancients to 
Daedalus, and destined to give its name in aftertime to any maze- of 
rooms, or words, or ears. *02009 '020136 

As if to please the modern spirit, more interested in plumbing 
than in poetry, the builders of Cnossus install in the palace a system 
of drainage superior to anything else of its kind in antiquity. They 
collect in stone conduits the water that flows down from the hills 
or falls from the sky, direct it through shafts to the 
bathrooms *02010 and latrines, and lead off the waste in terra-cotta 
pipes of the latest style- each section six inches in diameter and 
thirty inches long, equipped with a trap to catch the sediment, 
tapering at one end to lit into the next section, and bound to this 
firmly with a necking of cement. '020138 Possibly they include an 
apparatus for supplying running hot water to the household of the 

king. *02011 020139 

To the complex interiors the artists of Cnossus add the most 
delicate decorations. Some of the rooms they adorn with vases and 
statuettes, some with paintings or reliefs, some with huge stone 
amphorae or massive urns, some with objects in ivory, faience or 
bronze. Around one wall they run a limestone frieze with pretty 
triglyphs and half rosettes; around another a panel of spirals and 
frets on a surface painted to simulate marble; around another they 
carve in high relief and living detail the contests of man and bull. 
Through the halls and chambers the Minoan painter spreads all the 
glories of his cheerful art: here, caught chattering in a drawing 
room, are Ladies in Blue, with classic features, shapely arms, and 
cozy breasts; here are fields of lotus, or lilies, or olive spray; 
here are Ladies at the Opera, and dolphins swimming motionlessly in 
the sea. Here, above all, is the lordly Cupbearer, erect and strong, 
carrying some precious ointment in a slim blue vase; his face is 
chiseled by breeding as well as by art; his hair descends in a thick 
braid upon his brown shoulders; his ears, his neck, his arm, and his 
waist sparkle with jewelry, and his costly robe is embroidered with 
a graceful quatrefoil design; obviously he is no slave, but some 
aristocratic youth proudly privileged to serve the king. Only a 
civilization long familiar with order and wealth, leisure and taste, 
could demand or create such luxury and such ornament. 


When in retrospect we seek the origin of this brilliant culture, 
we find ourselves vacillating between Asia and Egypt. On the one hand, 
the Cretans seem kin in language, race, and religion to the 
Indo-European peoples of Asia Minor; there, too, clay tablets were 
used for writing, and the shekel was the standard of measurement; 
there, in Caria, was the cult of Zeus Labrandeus, i.e., Zeus of the 
Double Ax (labrys); there men worshiped the pillar, the bull, and 
the dove; there, in Phrygia, was the great Cybele, so much like the 
mother goddess of Crete that the Greeks called the latter Rhea Cybele, 
and considered the two divinities one. '020140a And yet the signs of 
Egyptian influence in Crete abound in every age. The two cultures 

are at first so much alike that some scholars presume a wave of 
Egyptian emigration to Crete in the troubled days of Menes. '020141 
The stone vases of Mochlos and the copper weapons of Early Minoan I 
are strikingly like those found in Proto-Dynastic tombs; the double ax 
appears as an amulet in Egypt, and even a "Priest of the Double Ax"; 
the weights and measures, though Asiatic in value, are Egyptian in 
form; the methods used in the glyptic arts, in faience, and in 
painting are so similar in the two lands that Spengler reduced 
Cretan civilization to a mere branch of the Egyptian. '020142 

We shall not follow him, for it will not do, in our search for the 
continuity of civilization, to surrender the individuality of the 
parts. The Cretan quality is distinct; no other people in antiquity 
has quite this flavor of minute refinement, this concentrated elegance 
in life and art. Let us believe that in its racial origins the Cretan 
culture was Asiatic, in many of its arts Egyptian; in essence and 
total it remained unique. Perhaps it belonged to a complex of 
civilization common to all the Eastern Mediterranean, in which each 
nation inherited kindred arts, beliefs, and ways from a widespread 
neolithic culture parent to them all. From that common civilization 
Crete borrowed in her youth, to it she contributed in her maturity. 

Her rule forged an order in the isles, and her merchants found entry 
at every port. Then her wares and her arts pervaded the Cyclades, 
overran Cyprus, reached to Caria and Palestine, '020143 moved north 
through Asia Minor and its islands to Troy, reached west through Italy 
and Sicily to Spain, '020144 penetrated the mainland of Greece even 
to Thessaly, and passed through Mycenae and Tiryns into the heritage 
of Greece. In the history of civilization Crete was the first link in 
the European chain. 

We do not know which of the many roads to decay Crete chose; perhaps 
she took them all. Her once famous forests of cypress and cedar 
vanished; today two thirds of the island are a stony waste, 
incapable of holding the winter rains. '020145 Perhaps there too, as 
in most declining cultures, population control went too far, and 
reproduction was left to the failures. Perhaps, as wealth and luxury 
increased, the pursuit of physical pleasure sapped the vitality of the 
race, and weakened its will to live or to defend itself; a nation is 

born stoic and dies epicurean. Possibly the collapse of Egypt after 
the death of Ikhnaton disrupted Creto-Egyptian trade, and diminished 
the riches of the Minoan kings. Crete had no great internal resources; 
her prosperity required commerce, and markets for her industries; like 
modern England she had become dangerously dependent upon control of 
the seas. Perhaps internal wars decimated the island's manhood, and 
left it disunited against foreign attack. Perhaps an earthquake 
shook the palaces into ruins, or some angry revolution avenged in a 
year of terror the accumulated oppressions of centuries. 

About 1450 the palace of Phaestus was again destroyed, that of Hagia 
Triada was burned down, the homes of the rich burghers of Tylissus 
disappeared. During the next fifty years Cnossus seems to have enjoyed 
the zenith of her fortune, and a supremacy unquestioned throughout the 
Aegean. Then, about 1400, the palace of Cnossus itself went up in 
flames. Everywhere in the ruins Evans found signs of uncontrollable 
fire-charred beams and pillars, blackened walls, and clay tablets 
hardened against time's tooth by the conflagration's heat. So thorough 
was the destruction, and so complete the removal of metal even from 
rooms covered and protected by debris, that many students suspect 
invasion and conquest rather than earthquake. *02012 '020146 In 
any case, the catastrophe was sudden; the workshops of artists and 
artisans give every indication of having been in full activity when 
death arrived. About the same time Gournia, Pseira, Zakro, and 
Palaikastro were leveled to the ground. 

We must not suppose that Cretan civilization vanished overnight. 
Palaces were built again, but more modestly, and for a generation or 
two the products of Crete continued to dominate Aegean art. About 
the middle of the thirteenth century we come at last upon a specific 
Cretan personality- that King Minos of whom Greek tradition told so 
many frightening tales. His brides were annoyed at the abundance of 
serpents and scorpions in his seed; but by some secret device his wife 
Pasiphae eluded these, '020147 and safely bore him many children, 
among them Phaedra (wife of Theseus and lover of Hippolytus) and the 
fair-haired Ariadne. Minos having offended Poseidon, the god afflicted 
Pasiphae with a mad passion for a divine bull. Daedalus pitied her, 
and through his contrivance she conceived the terrible Minotaur. Minos 
imprisoned the animal in the Labyrinth which Daedalus had built at his 

command, but appeased it periodically with human sacrifice. '020148 
Pleasanter even in its tragedy is the legend of Daedalus, for it 
opens one of the proudest epics of human history. Greek story 
represented him as an Athenian Leonardo who, envious of his nephew's 
skill, slew him in a moment of temperament, and was banished forever 
from Greece. He found refuge at Minos' court, astonished him with 
mechanical inventions and novelties, and became chief artist and 
engineer to the king. He was a great sculptor, and fable used his name 
to personify the graduation of statuary from stiff, dead figures to 
vivid portraits of possible men; the creatures made by him, we are 
informed, were so lifelike that they stood up and walked away unless 
they were chained to their pedestals. '020149 But Minos was peeved 
when he learned of Daedalus' connivance with Pasiphae's amours, and 
confined him and his son Icarus in the maze of the Labyrinth. Daedalus 
fashioned wings for himself and Icarus, and by their aid they leaped 
across the walls and soared over the Mediterranean. Disdaining his 
father's counsel, proud Icarus flew too closely to the sun; the hot 
rays melted the wax on his wings, and he was lost in the sea, pointing 
a moral and adorning a tale. Daedalus, empty-hearted, flew on to 
Sicily, and stirred that island to civilization by bringing to it 
the industrial and artistic culture of Crete. *02013 '020150 
More tragic still is the story of Theseus and Ariadne. Minos, 
victorious in a war against youthful Athens, exacted from that city, 
every ninth year, a tribute of seven girls and seven young men, to 
be devoured by the Minotaur. On the coming of the third occasion for 
this national humiliation the handsome Theseus- his father King Aegeus 
reluctantly consenting- had himself chosen as one of the seven youths, 
for he was resolved to slay the Minotaur and end the recurrent 
sacrifice. Ariadne pitied the princely Athenian, loved him, gave him a 
magic sword, and taught him the simple trick of unraveling thread from 
his arm as he penetrated the Labyrinth. Theseus killed the Minotaur, 
followed the thread back to Ariadne, and took her with him on his 
flight from Crete. On the isle of Naxos he married her as he had 
promised, but while she slept he and his companions sailed 
treacherously away. *02014 '020152 

With Ariadne and Minos, Crete disappears from history till the 
coming of Lycurgus to the island, presumably in the seventh century. 

There are indications that the Achaeans reached it in their long raid 
of Greece in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries, and Dorian 
conquerors settled there towards the end of the second millennium 
before Christ. Here, said many Cretans and some Greeks, '020153 
Lycurgus, and in less degree Solon, had found the model for their 
laws. In Crete as in Sparta, after the island had come under Dorian 
sway, the ruling class led a life of at least outward simplicity and 
restraint; the boys were brought up in the army, and the adult males 
ate together in public mess halls; the state was ruled by a senate of 
elders, and was administered by ten kosmoi or orderers, 
corresponding to the ephors of Sparta and the archons of 
Athens. '020154 It is difficult to say whether Crete taught Sparta, 
or Sparta Crete; perhaps both states were the parallel results of 
similar conditions- the precarious life of an alien military 
aristocracy amid a native and hostile population of serfs. The 
comparatively enlightened law code of Gortyna, discovered on the walls 
of that Cretan town in A.D. 1884, belongs apparently to the early 
fifth century; in an earlier form it may have influenced the 
legislators of Greece. In the sixth century Thaletas of Crete taught 
choral music at Sparta, and the Cretan sculptors Dipoenus and Scyllis 
instructed the artists of Argos and Sicyon. By a hundred channels the 
old civilization emptied itself out into the new. 

CHAPTER II: Before Agamemnon 

IN the year 1822 a lad was born in Germany who was to turn the 
spadework of archeology into one of the romances of the century. His 
father had a passion for ancient history, and brought him up on 
Homer's stories of the siege of Troy and Odysseus' wanderings. "With 
great grief I heard from him that Troy had been so completely 
destroyed that it had disappeared without leaving any trace of its 
existence." '02021 At the age of eight, having given the matter 
mature consideration, Heinrich Schliemann announced his intention to 
devote his life to the rediscovery of the lost city. At the age of ten 
he presented to his father a Latin essay on the Trojan War. In 1836 he 

left school with an education too advanced for his means, and became a 
grocer's apprentice. In 1841 he shipped from Hamburg as cabin boy on a 
steamer bound for South America. Twelve days out the vessel foundered; 
the crew was tossed about in a small boat for nine hours, and was 
thrown by the tide upon the shores of Holland. Heinrich became a 
clerk, and earned a hundred and fifty dollars a year; he spent half of 
this on books, and lived on the other half and his dreams. '02022 
His intelligence and application had their natural results; at 
twenty-five he was an independent merchant with interests on three 
continents; at thirty-six he felt that he had enough money, retired 
from commerce, and gave all his time to archeology. "In the midst of 
the bustle of business I had never forgotten Troy, or the agreement 
I had made with my father to excavate it." '02023 

In his travels as a merchant he had made it a practice to learn 
the language of each country he traded with, and to write in that 
language the current pages of his diary. '02024 By this method he 
learned English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, 
Swedish, Polish, and Arabic. Now he went to Greece, studied the 
language as a living speech, and was soon able to read both ancient 
and modern Greek as fluently as German. *02015 Henceforth, he 
declared, "I should find it impossible to live anywhere but on 
classical soil." '02026 Since his Russian wife refused to leave 
Russia, he advertised for a Greek wife, laid down precise 
specifications for the position, and at the age of forty-seven chose a 
bride of nineteen from among the photographs he received. He married 
her almost at sight, and unwittingly in the ancient style of purchase; 
her parents charged him for her a price commensurate with their 
conception of his fortune. When his new wife bore him children he 
reluctantly consented to baptize them, but solemnized the ceremony 
by laying a copy of the Iliad upon their heads and reading a hundred 
hexameters aloud. He named them Andromache and Agamemnon, called his 
servants Telamon and Pelops, and christened his Athenian home 
Bellerophon. '02027 He was an old man mad about Homer. 

In 1870 he went to the Troad- the northwest corner of Asia Minor- 
and made up his mind, against all current scholarly opinion, that 
Priam's Troy lay buried under the hill called Hissarlik. After a 
year of negotiations he secured permission from the Turkish Government 

to explore the site; he engaged eighty laborers, and set to work. 

His wife, who loved him for his eccentricities, shared his toil in the 
earth from sunrise to sunset. All winter long an icy gale from the 
north drove a blinding dust into their eyes, and swept with such 
violence through the cracks of their frail cottage that no lamp 
could be kept lit in the evening. Despite the fire in the hearth the 
water froze nearly every night. "We had nothing to keep us warm except 
our enthusiasm for the great work of discovering Troy." '02028 

A year passed before they were rewarded. Then, blow by blow, a 
workman's pick exposed a large copper vessel, and this, opened, 
revealed an astonishing treasure of some nine thousand objects in 
silver and gold. The canny Schliemann hid the find in his wife's 
shawl, dismissed his workmen to an unexpected siesta, hurried to his 
hut, locked the door, spread out the precious things on the table, 
linked each one fondly with some passage in Homer, adorned his wife 
with an ancient diadem, and sent messages to his friends in Europe 
that he had unearthed "the Treasury of Priam." '02029 No one would 
believe him; some critics charged him with having placed the objects 
where he found them; and at the same time the Sublime Porte sued him 
for taking gold from Turkish soil. But scholars like Virchow, 

Dorpfeld, and Burnouf came to the site, verified Schliemann's reports, 
and carried on the work with him until one buried Troy after another 
was uncovered, and the problem was no longer whether Troy had existed, 
but which of the nine Troys exhumed had been the Ilios of the Iliad. 

In 1876 Schliemann resolved to confirm the epic from another 
direction- to show that Agamemnon too was real. Guided by Pausanias' 
classic description of Greece, *02016 he sank thirty-four shafts at 
Mycenae in the eastern Peloponnesus. Turkish officials interrupted the 
work by claiming half of the material that he had found at Troy. 
Unwilling to let the precious "Treasury of Priam" lie unseen in 
Turkey, Schliemann clandestinely dispatched the objects to the State 
Museum at Berlin, paid the Porte five times more damages than were 
required of him, and resumed his digging at Mycenae. Again he was 
rewarded; and when he saw his workers carrying up to him skeletons, 
pottery, jewelry, and golden masks, he telegraphed joyfully to the 
King of Greece that he had discovered the tombs of Atreus and 
Agamemnon. '020210 In 1884 he moved on to Tiryns and, guided again 

by Pausanias, unearthed the great palace and Cyclopean walls that 
Homer had described. '020211 

Seldom had any man done so much for archeology. He had the faults of 
his virtues, for his enthusiasm drove him into a reckless haste that 
destroyed or confused many exhumed objects in order to reach at once 
the goal that he sought; and the epics that had inspired his labors 
misled him into thinking that he had discovered Priam's hoard at Troy, 
and the tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae. The world of scholarship doubted 
his reports, and the museums of England, Russia, and France long 
refused to accept as genuine the relics that he had found. He consoled 
himself with vigorous self-appreciation, and went on digging 
courageously until disease struck him down. In his last days he 
hesitated whether to pray to the God of Christianity or to the Zeus of 
classic Greece. "To Agamemnon Schliemann, best beloved of sons, 
greeting!" he writes. "I am very glad that you are going to study 
Plutarch, and have finished Xenophon... I pray Zeus the Father and 
Pallas Athene that they will grant you a hundred returns of the day in 
health and happiness." '020212 He died in 1890, worn out by climatic 
hardships, scholastic hostility, and the incessant fever of his dream. 

Tike Columbus he had discovered a world stranger than the one he 
sought. These jewels were older by many centuries than Priam and 
Hecuba; these graves were not the tombs of the Atridae, but the 
ruins of an Aegean civilization, on the Greek mainland, as ancient 
as the Minoan Age in Crete. Unknowingly Schliemann had proved Horace's 
famous line- vixerunt fortes ante Agamemnona - "there lived many 
brave men before Agamemnon." *02017 Year by year, as Dorpfeld and 
Muller, Tsountas and Stamatakis, Waldstein and Wace dug more widely 
into the Peloponnesus, and still others explored Attica and the 
islands, Euboea and Boeotia, Phocis and Thessaly, the soil of Greece 
gave up the ghostly relics of a culture before history. Here too men 
had been lifted from barbarism to civilization by the passage from 
nomadic hunting to settled agriculture, by the replacement of stone 
tools with copper and bronze, by the conveniences of writing and the 
stimulus of trade. Civilization is always older than we think; and 
under whatever sod we tread are the bones of men and women who also 
worked and loved, wrote songs and made beautiful things, but whose 
names and very being have been lost in the careless How of time. 


On a long low hill five miles east of Argos and a mile north of 
the sea, stood, in the fourteenth century before our era, the 
fortress-palace of Tiryns. Today one reaches its ruins by a pleasant 
ride from Argos or Nauplia, and finds them half lost amid quiet fields 
of corn and wheat. Then, after a little climb up prehistoric stone 
steps, the traveler stands before the Cyclopean walls built, said 
Greek tradition, for the Argive prince Proetus, two centuries before 
the Trojan War. *02018 Even then the town itself was old, having 
been founded, said ancient memory, by the hero Tiryns, son of Argus of 
the hundred eyes, in the infancy of the world. '020214 Proteus, the 
story went on, gave the palace to Perseus, who ruled Tiryns with the 
dusky Andromeda as his queen. 

The walls that protected the citadel rose from twenty-five to 
fifty feet in height, and were so thick that at several places they 
contained spacious galleries, vaulted and arched with immense 
overlapping horizontal slabs. Many of the stones still in place 
measure six feet in length by three in breadth and depth; the smallest 
of them, said Pausanias, "could hardly be moved by a pair of 
mules." '020215 Within the walls, behind a propylon or gateway that 
set a style for many an acropolis, lay a broad paved court bounded 
with colonnades; and around this, as at Cnossus, was a medley of rooms 
gathered about the megaron- a hall of state thirteen hundred square 
feet in area, with a pavement of painted cement, and a ceiling 
supported by four columns enclosing a hearth. Here, in contrast to 
merry Crete, was established a lasting principle of Greek 
architecture- the separation of the women's quarters, or gynaeceum, 
from the chambers of the men. The king's room and the queen's room 
were built side by side, but, so far as the remains reveal, they 
were eremitically sealed against intercommunication. Of this 
palace-castle Schliemann found only the ground plan, the column bases, 
and portions of the wall. At the foot of the hill were the remnants of 
stone or brick houses and bridges, and some fragments of archaic 
pottery; there, in prehistoric days, the town of Tiryns huddled for 
protection below the palace walls. We must picture the life of 

Bronze Age Greece as moving insecurely around and within such feudal 

Ten miles farther north, perhaps in the fourteenth century before 
Christ, Perseus (if we wish to believe Pausanias) '020216 built 
Mycenae- the greatest capital of prehistoric Greece. Here too, 
around a forbidding citadel, a town of several villages grew, 
housing a busy population of peasants, merchants, artisans, and 
slaves, who had the happiness of eluding history. Six hundred years 
later Homer called Mycenae "a well-built city, broad-avenued and 
abounding in gold." '020217 Despite a hundred despoiling generations 
some parts of these also Cyclopean walls survive, to attest the 
immemorial cheapness of labor and uneasiness of kings. In a corner 
of the wall is the famous Lion Gate, where, carved upon a stone 
triangle over a massive lintel, two royal beasts, now worn and 
headless, dumbly stand guard over a grandeur that is gone. On the 
acropolis beyond are the ruins of the palace. Again, as at Tiryns 
and Cnossus, we can trace the divisions of throne room, altar room, 
storerooms, bathroom, and reception rooms. Here once were painted 
floors, columned porticoes, frescoed walls, and majestic flights of 

Near the Lion Gate, in a narrow area enclosed by a ring of erect 
stone slabs, Schliemann's workers dug up nineteen skeletons, and 
relics so rich that one could forgive the great amateur for seeing 
in these shafts the burial chambers of the children of Atreus. Had not 
Pausanias described the royal graves as "in the ruins of 
Mycenae"? '020218 Here were male skulls with crowns of gold, and 
golden masks on the bones of the face; here were osseous ladies with 
golden diadems on what had been their heads; here were painted 
vases, bronze caldrons, a silver rhyton, beads of amber and 
amethyst, objects of alabaster, ivory, or faience, heavily 
ornamented daggers and swords, a gaming board like that at Cnossus, 
and almost anything in gold-seals and rings, pins and studs, cups 
and beads, bracelets and breastplates, vessels of toilette, even 
clothing embroidered with thin plates of gold. '020219 These were 
assuredly royal jewels, royal bones. 

In the hillside opposite the acropolis Schliemann and others 
discovered nine tombs altogether different from these "shaft 

graves." Leaving the road that comes down from the citadel, one enters 
at the right a corridor lined with walls of large, well-cut stones. At 
the end is a plain portal, once adorned with slim cylindrical 
columns of green marble, now in the British Museum; above it is a 
simple lintel of two stones, one extending thirty feet and weighing 
113 tons. Within, the traveler finds himself under a dome, or 
tholos, fifty feet high and as many wide; the walls are built of 
sawn blocks reinforced with decorative bronze rosettes; each stratum 
of stones overlaps the one beneath, until the uppermost layer closes 
the top. This strange structure, Schliemann thought, was the tomb of 
Agamemnon, and a smaller tholos near by, discovered by his wife, was 
at once described as the tomb of Clytaemnestra. All the "beehive" 
tombs at Mycenae were found empty; thieves had anticipated the 
archeologists by several centuries. 

These gloomy ruins are the reminders of a civilization as ancient to 
Pericles as Charlemagne to ourselves. Current opinion dates the 
shaft graves near to 1600 B.C. (some four hundred years before the 
traditional age of Agamemnon), and the beehive tombs about 1450; but 
prehistoric chronology is not a precision tool. We do not know how 
this civilization began, nor what people it was that built towns not 
only at Mycenae and Tiryns but at Sparta, Amyclae, Aegina, Eleusis, 
Chaeronea, Orchomenos, and Delphi. Probably, like most nations, it was 
already composite in stock and heritage; Greece was as diverse in 
blood before the Dorian invasion (1100 B.C.) as England before the 
Norman Conquest. So far as we can guess, the Mycenaeans were akin to 
the Phrygians and Carians of Asia Minor, and to the Minoans of 
Crete. '020220 The lions of Mycenae have a Mesopotamian countenance; 
this ancient motif probably came through Assyria and Phrygia to 
Greece. '020220a Greek tradition called the Mycenaeans "Pelasgi" 
(possibly meaning People of the Sea- pelagos ), and pictured them 
as coming down from Thrace and Thessaly into Attica and the 
Peloponnesus in a past so distant that the Greeks termed them 
autochthonoi - aborigines. Herodotus accepted this account, and 
ascribed the Olympian gods to a Pelasgic origin, but he "could not say 
with any certainty what the language of the Pelasgi was." '020221 No 
more can we. 

Doubtless these autochthonoi were themselves late-comers into a 

land that had suffered cultivation since neolithic days; there are 
no aborigines. In their turn they too were overrun; for in the later 
years of Mycenaean history, towards 1600, we find many indications 
of a cultural-commercial, if not a military-political, conquest of the 
Peloponnesus by the products or emigrants of Crete. '020222 The 
palaces at Tiryns and Mycenae, except for the gynaeceum, were designed 
and decorated in the Minoan manner; Cretan vases and styles reached 
into Aegina, Chalcis, and Thebes; Mycenaean ladies and goddesses 
adopted the charming fashions of Crete, and the art revealed in the 
later shaft graves is unmistakably Minoan. '020223 Apparently it was 
this stimulating contact with a higher culture that lifted Mycenae 
to the peak of its civilization. 


The remains of this culture are too fragmentary to give us a picture 
as distinct as those that take form in the ruins of Crete or the 
poetry of Homer. Life on the mainland was a little nearer to the 
hunting stage than in Crete. The bones of deer, wild boars, goats, 
sheep, hares, oxen, and pigs among the Mycenaean leavings- not to 
speak of fishbones and marine shells- indicate an appetite already 
Homeric, and unfriendly to the Cretan waist. Here and there the relics 
reveal the strange contemporaneity of "ancient" and "modern" modes- 
obsidian arrowheads lying beside a hollow bronze drill apparently used 
in boring dowel holes into stones. '020224 

Industry was less advanced than in Crete; there are no signs on the 
mainland of such industrial centers as Gournia. Trade grew slowly, for 
the seas were troubled with pirates, including the Mycenaeans; the 
kings of Mycenae and Tiryns had Cretan artists engrave for them, on 
their vases and rings, a proud record of their achievements in 
piracy. '020225 To protect themselves against other pirates they 
built their cities inland, far enough from the sea to guard against 
sudden attack, close enough to take readily to their ships. Lying on 
the road from the Argolic Gulf to the Isthmus of Corinth, Tiryns and 

Mycenae were well situated both to plunder traders with feudal tolls, 
and to set out occasionally on buccaneering raids. Seeing Crete grow 
rich on orderly trade, Mycenae learned that piracy- like its civilized 
offspring, tariff dues- can strangle commerce and internationalize 
poverty; it reformed, and allowed piracy to subside into trade. By 
1400 its mercantile fleet was strong enough to defy the sea power of 
Crete; it refused to ship its Africa-bound goods across the island, 
but sent them directly to Egypt; possibly this was the cause, or 
result, of a war that ended in the destruction of the Cretan citadels. 

The wealth that grew from this trade was not accompanied by any 
commensurate culture visible in the remains. Greek tradition credited 
the Pelasgians with having learned the alphabet from Phoenician 
traders. At Tiryns and Thebes some jars have been found bearing 
unintelligible characters, but no clay tablets, or inscriptions, or 
documents have been discovered; probably when Mycenae decided to be 
literate it used perishable writing materials, as the Cretans did in 
their final period; and nothing has been preserved. In art the 
Mycenaeans followed Cretan models, and so faithfully that archeology 
suspects them of importing their major artists from Crete. But after 
Cretan art declined, painting flourished vigorously on the mainland. 

The decorative designs of borders and cornices are of the first order, 
and persist into classic Greece, while the surviving frescoes indicate 
a keen feeling for moving life. The Ladies in the Box are splendid 
dowagers, who might adorn any opera promenade today and be in full 
fashion of coiffure and gowns; they are more alive than the stiffly 
conscious Ladies in the Chariot, who are out for an afternoon drive in 
the park. Better still is the Boar Hunt, a fresco from Tiryns: the 
boar and the flowers are unconvincingly conventional, the incredibly 
pink hounds are disfigured with stylized spots of scarlet, black, or 
blue, and the hind quarters of the plunging boar taper away into the 
likeness of some high-heeled maiden falling from her palace bower; 
nevertheless the chase is real, the boar is desperate, the dogs are in 
fast flight through the air, and man, the most sentimental and 
terrible of all beasts of prey, stands ready with his murderous 
spear. '020226 One may suspect from such samples the active and 
physical life of the Mycenaeans, the proud beauty of their women, the 

vivid adornment of their palaces. 

The highest art of Mycenae was in metals. Here the mainland equaled 
Crete, and dared to use its own forms and decoration. If Schliemann 
did not quite find the bones of Agamemnon, he found their weight in 
silver and gold: jewelry of many kinds, in spendthrift quantities; 
stud buttons worthy of any king; intaglios alive with scenes of 
hunting, war, or piracy; and a cow's head in shining silver, with 
horns and frontal rosette of gold- at any moment one expects from it 
the plaintive mooing to which Schliemann, never at a loss for 
explanations, traced the name Mycenae (Mukenai). '020227 The finest 
of these metal relics from Tiryns and Mycenae are two bronze daggers 
inlaid with electron and burnished gold, and elegantly engraved with 
wildcats chasing ducks, and lions pursuing leopards or fighting 
men. '020229 Most peculiar of all the remains are the golden masks, 
apparently laid over the faces of dead royalty. One mask '020230 
looks for all the world like the face of a cat; however, the gallant 
Schliemann ascribed it not to Clytaemnestra but to Agamemnon. 

The unquestioned masterpieces of Mycenaean art were found neither at 
Tiryns nor at Mycenae but in a tomb at Vaphio, near Sparta, where a 
minor prince once emulated the magnificence of the northern kings. 

Here, amid another treasure of jewelry, were two thin cups of beaten 
gold, simply formed and yet worked with the loving patience of all 
great art. The craftsmanship is so like the best Minoan that most 
students are inclined to attribute these cups to some Cretan 
Cellini; but it would be a pity to deprive the Mycenaean culture of 
its most perfect memorials. The subject- the snaring and taming of a 
bull- seems characteristically Cretan; and yet the frequency with 
which such scenes are engraved upon Mycenaean rings and seals or 
painted upon the palace walls shows that the bull sport was as popular 
on the mainland as on the island. On one of the cups the bull is 
caught in a net of heavy rope; his mouth and nostrils gape with 
breathless anger and fatigue as he struggles to get free and imprisons 
himself the more; while on the other side a second bull gallops off in 
terror, and a third charges at a cowboy who catches it bravely by 
the horns. On the companion cup the captured bull is being led away; 

as we turn the vessel around we see him already reconciled to the 
restraints of civilization, and engaged, as Evans puts it, in "amorous 
conversation" with a cow. '020231 Many centuries were to pass before 
such skillful work would appear again in Greece. 

The Mycenaean himself, as well as most of his art, is found in the 
tombs; for he folded and buried his dead in uncomfortable jars, and 
seldom cremated them as the Heroic Age would do. Apparently he 
believed in a future life, for many objects of use and value were 
placed in the graves. For the rest Mycenaean religion, so far as it 
reveals itself to us, gives every evidence of Cretan origin or 
kinship. Here as in Crete are the double ax, the sacred pillar, the 
holy dove, and the cult of a mother goddess associated with a young 
male deity, presumably her son; and here again are attendant 
divinities in the form of snakes. Through all the transformations of 
religion known to us in Greece the mother goddess has remained. 

After the Cretan Rhea came Demeter, the Mater Dolorosa of the 
Greeks; after Demeter the Virgin Mother of God. Today, standing on the 
ruins of Mycenae, one sees, in the little village below, a modest 
Christian church. Grandeur is gone; simplicity and consolation remain. 
Civilizations come and go; they conquer the earth and crumble into 
dust; but faith survives every desolation. 

After the fall of Cnossus Mycenae prospered as never before; the 
rising wealth of the "Shaft Grave Dynasty" raised great palaces upon 
the hills of Mycenae and Tiryns. Mycenaean art took on a character 
of its own, and captured the markets of the Aegean. Now the commerce 
of the mainland princes reached eastward into Cyprus and Syria, 
southward through the Cyclades to Egypt, westward through Italy to 
Spain, northward through Boeotia and Thessaly to the Danube; and found 
itself balked only at Troy. Like Rome absorbing and disseminating 
the civilization of Hellas, so Mycenae, won by the culture of dying 
Crete, spread the Mycenaean phase of that culture throughout the 
Mediterranean world. 


Between the Greek mainland and Crete 220 islands dot the Aegean, 
forming a circle around Delos, and therefore called the Cyclades. Most 
of them are rugged and barren, precarious mountain survivals of a land 
half drowned in the sea; but some were rich enough in marble or 
metal to be already busy and civilized, as the world goes, long before 
Greek history comes into our view. In 1896 the British School of 
Athens dug into the soil of Melos at Phylakopi and found tools, 
weapons, and pottery remarkably akin, age by age, to the Minoan; and a 
like research in other islands has built up a prehistoric picture of 
the Cyclades conforming in time and character, though never comparable 
in artistic excellence, with the bioscope of Crete. The Cyclades 
were cramped for land, totaling less than a thousand square miles 
among them, and proved, like classic Greece, incapable of uniting 
under one political power. By the seventeenth century B.C. the 
little isles had passed in government and art, even, here and there, 
in language and writing, under Cretan domination. Then, in the final 
period (1400-1200), the imports from Crete fell away, and the 
islands increasingly took their pottery and their styles from Mycenae. 

Moving eastward into the Sporades (Scattered) Islands, we find in 
Rhodes another prehistoric culture of the simpler Aegean type. In 
Cyprus the rich deposits of copper that gave the island its name 
brought it a measure of wealth throughout the Bronze Age 
(3400-1200), but its wares *02019 remained crude and undistinguished 
before the coming of Cretan influence. Its population, predominantly 
Asiatic, used a syllabic script akin to the Minoan, and worshiped a 
goddess apparently descended from the Semitic Ishtar, and destined 
to become the Aphrodite of the Greeks. '020232 After 1600 the metal 
industry of the island developed rapidly; the mines, owned by the 
royal government, exported copper to Egypt, Crete, and Greece, the 
foundry at Enkomi made famous daggers, and the potters sold their 
globular bowls from Egypt to Troy. The forests were cut into timber, 
and cypress from Cyprus began to compete with the cedars of Lebanon. 

In the thirteenth century Mycenaean colonists founded the colonies 
that were to become the Greek cities of Paphos, sacred to Aphrodite, 
and Citium, birthplace of the Stoic Zeno, and Cyprian Salamis, where 
Solon paused in his wanderings to replace chaos with law. 

From Cyprus Mycenaean trade and influence crossed to Syria and 
Caria, and thence, as well as by other "rowing-stones," they moved 
up the coasts and islands of Asia until they reached Troy. There, on a 
hill separated by three miles from the sea, Schliemann and Dorpfeld 
found nine cities, superimposed each upon its predecessor, as if 
Troy had had nine lives. 

(1) In the lowest strata were the remains of a neolithic village 
coming down to 3000 B.C. Here were walls of rough stones, mortared 
with mud; clay whorls, bits of worked ivory, tools of obsidian, and 
pieces of hand-polished black pottery. (2) Above this lay the ruins of 
the Second City, which Schliemann believed to have been Homer's 
Troy. Its enclosing walls, like those of Tiryns and Mycenae, were of 
cyclopean stones; at intervals there were fortresses, and at the 
corners great double gates, of which two are well preserved. Some 
houses survive to a height of four feet, their walls built of brick 
and wood upon a stone foundation. The red-painted pottery, 
wheel-turned but crude, indicates a life span for this city from 
approximately 2400 to 1900. Bronze has replaced stone for tools and 
weapons, and jewelry abounds; but the statuettes are unprepossessingly 
primitive. The Second City was apparently destroyed by fire; signs 
of conflagration are numerous, and persuaded Schliemann that this 
was the work of Agamemnon's Greeks. 

(3-5) Above the "Burnt City" are the relics of three successive 
hamlets, small and poor, and negligible in archeological content. 

(6) About 1600 another city rose on the historic hill. Through the 
passionate haste of his work, Schliemann mixed the objects of this 
stratum with those of the second, and dismissed the Sixth City as an 
unimportant "Lydian settlement." '020233 But Dorpfeld, continuing 
the excavations after Schliemann's death, and for a time with 
Schliemann's money, '020234 revealed a town considerably larger than 

the Second, ornate with substantial buildings in dressed stone, and 
enclosed by a thirty-foot wall of whose four gates three remain. In 
the ruins were monochrome vases of finer workmanship than before, 
vessels like the "Minyan" ware of Orchomenos, and potsherds so like 
those found at Mycenae that Dorpfeld considered them to be 
importations from that city, and therefore contemporary with the Shaft 
Grave Dynasty (1400-1200). On these and other shifting grounds current 
opinion identifies the Sixth City with Homer's 
Troy, *02020 '020235 and assigns to it the "Treasury of Priam" 
that Schliemann thought he had found in the Second City- six 
bracelets, two goblets, two diadems, a fillet, sixty earrings, and 
8700 other pieces, all in gold. '020236 The Sixth City too, we are 
assured, perished by fire, shortly after 1200. Greek historians 
traditionally assigned the siege of Troy to 1194-1184 B.C. *02021 
Who were the Trojans? An Egyptian papyrus mentions certain 
"Dardenui" as among the allies of the Hittites at the battle of Kadesh 
(1287); it is likely that these were the ancestors of the "Dardenoi" 
who in Homer's terminology are one with the Trojans. '020237 
Probably these Dardani were of Balkan origin, crossed the Hellespont 
in the sixteenth century with the kindred Phrygians, and settled in 
the lower valley of the Scamander. '020238 Herodotus, however, 
identified the Trojans with the Teucrians, and the Teucrians, 
according to Strabo, were Cretans who settled in the Troad, *02022 
perhaps after the fall of Cnossus. '020240 Both Crete and the Troad 
had a sacred Mt. Ida, the "many-fountained Ida" of Homer and Tennyson. 
Presumably the region was subject at various times to political and 
ethnic influences from the Hittite hinterland. All in all, the 
excavations indicate a civilization partly Minoan, partly Mycenaean, 
partly Asiatic, partly Danubian. Homer represents the Trojans as 
speaking the same language and worshiping the same gods as the Greeks; 
but later Hellenic imagination preferred to think of Troy as an 
Asiatic city, and of the famous siege as the first known episode in an 
endless contest between Semite and Aryan, East and West. '020241 
More significant than the racial complexion of its people was the 
strategic position of Troy near the entrance to the Hellespont and the 
rich lands about the Black Sea. Throughout history that narrow passage 
has been the battleground of empires; the siege of Troy was the 

Gallipoli adventure of 1194 B.C. The plain was moderately fertile, and 
precious metals lay in the soil to the east; but this alone would 
hardly account for the wealth of Troy, and the tenacious attack of the 
Greeks. The city was admirably placed to levy tolls upon vessels 
wishing to pass through the Hellespont, while it was too far inland to 
be conveniently assailed from the sea: '020242 perhaps it was this, 
and not Helen's face, that launched a thousand ships upon Ilium. On 
a likelier theory the southward current and winds in the strait 
persuaded merchants to unload their cargoes at Troy and ship them 
overland into the interior; from the charges exacted for this 
service Troy may have derived its wealth and power. '020243 In any 
case the city's trade grew rapidly, as may be judged from the varied 
provenance of its remains. From the lower Aegean came copper, olive 
oil, wine, and pottery; from the Danube and Thrace came pottery, 
amber, horses, and swords; from distant China came so great a rarity 
as jade. '020244 In return Troy brought from the interior, and 
exported, timber, silver, gold, and wild asses. Seated proudly 
behind their walls, the "horse-taming Trojans" dominated the Troad, 
and taxed its trade on land and sea. 

The picture that we derive from the Iliad of Priam and his 
household is one of Biblical grandeur and patriarchal benevolence. The 
King is polygamous, not as a diversion but as a royal responsibility 
to continue his high breed abundantly; his sons are monogamous, and as 
well behaved as the fictitious Victorians- excepting, of course, the 
gay Paris, who is as innocent of morals as Alcibiades. Hector, 

Helenus, and Troilus are more likable than the vacillating 
Agamemnon, the treacherous Odysseus, and the petulant Achilles; 
Andromache and Polyxena are as charming as Helen and Iphigenia; and 
Hecuba is a shade better than Clytaemnestra. All in all, the 
Trojans, as pictured by their enemies, seem to us less deceitful, more 
devoted, better gentlemen, than the Greeks who conquered them. The 
conquerors themselves felt this in later days; Homer had many a kind 
word to say for the Trojans, and Sappho and Euripides left no doubt as 
to where their sympathies and admiration lay. It was a pity that these 
noble Dardans stood in the way of an expanding Greece which, despite 
its multitude of faults, would in the end bring to this and every 
other region of the Mediterranean a higher civilization than they 

had ever known. 

CHAPTER III: The Heroic Age 

MODEST Hittite tablets from Boghaz Keui, of approximately 1325 B.C., 
speak of the "Ahhijava" as a people equal in power to the Hittites 
themselves. An Egyptian record towards 1221 B.C. mentions the 
"Akaiwasha" as joining other "Peoples of the Sea" in a Libyan invasion 
of Egypt, and describes them as a roving band "fighting to fill 
their bellies." '02031 In Homer the Achaeans are, specifically, a 
Greek-speaking people of southern Thessaly; '02032 often, however, 
because they had become the most powerful of the Greek tribes, Homer 
uses their name for all the Greeks at Troy. Greek historians and poets 
of the classic age called the Achaeans, like the Pelasgians, 
autochthonous- native to Greece as far back as memory could recall; 
and they assumed without hesitation that the Achaean culture described 
in Homer was one with that which has here been termed Mycenaean. 
Schliemann accepted this identification, and for a brief while the 
world of scholarship agreed with him. 

In 1901 an unusually iconoclastic Englishman, Sir William 
Ridgeway, '02033 upset this happy confidence by pointing out that 
though Achaean civilization agreed with the Mycenaean in many ways, it 
differed in vital particulars. (1) Iron is practically unknown to 
the Mycenaeans; the Achaeans are familiar with it. (2) The dead in 
Homer are cremated; in Tiryns and Mycenae they are buried, implying 
a different conception of the afterlife. (3) The Achaean gods are 
the Olympians, of whom no trace has been found in the culture of 
Mycenae. (4) The Achaeans use long swords, round shields, and 
safety-pin brooches; no objects of such form appear in the varied 
Mycenaean remains. (5) There are considerable dissimilarities in 
coiffure and dress. Ridgeway concluded that the Mycenaeans were 
Pelasgians, and spoke Greek; that the Achaeans were blond "Celts," 
or Central Europeans, who came down through Epirus and Thessaly from 
2000 onward, brought with them the worship of Zeus, invaded the 
Peloponnesus about 1400, adopted Greek speech and many Greek ways, and 
established themselves as feudal chieftains ruling from their 

fortress-palaces a subjugated Pelasgian population. 

The theory is illuminating, even if it must be substantially 
moditled. Greek literature says nothing of an Achaean invasion; and it 
would not be wise to hang a rejection of so unanimous a tradition upon 
a gradual increase in the use of iron, a change in modes of burial or 
coiffure, a lengthening of swords or rounding of shields, or even a 
safety pin. It is more likely that the Achaeans, as all classic 
writers supposed, were a Greek tribe that, in its natural 
multiplication, expanded from Thessaly into the Peloponnesus during 
the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries, mingled their blood with the 
Pelasgo-Mycenaeans there, and, towards 1250 B.C., became the ruling 
class. '02034 Probably it was they who gave Greek to the Pelasgians, 
instead of receiving it from them. In such place names as Corinth and 
Tiryns, Parnassus and Olympia, *02023 we may have echoes of a 
Creto-Pelasgo-Mycenaean tongue. '02035 In the same manner, 
presumably, the Achaeans superimposed their mountain and sky gods upon 
the "chthonic" or subterranean deities of the earlier population. 

For the rest there is no sharp line of separation between the 
Mycenaean culture and that later phase of it, the Achaean, which we 
find in Homer; the two ways of life seem to have mingled and melted 
into one. Slowly, as the amalgamation proceeded, Aegean civilization 
passed away, dying in the defeat of Troy, and Greek civilization 


The legends of the Heroic Age suggest both the origins and the 
destinies of the Achaeans. We must not ignore these stories; for 
though a sanguinary fancy enlivens them, they may contain more history 
than we suppose; and they are so bound up with Greek poetry, drama, 
and art that we should be at a loss to understand these without 
them. *02024 

Hittite inscriptions mention an Atarissyas as King of the 
Ahhijavas in the thirteenth century B.C.; he is probably Atreus, 

King of the Achaeans. '02036 In Greek story Zeus begat Tantalus, 

King of Phrygia, *02025 who begat Pelops, who begat Atreus, who 
begat Agamemnon. Pelops, being exiled, came to Elis in the western 

Peloponnesus about 1283, and determined to marry Hippodameia, daughter 

of Oenomaus, Elis' king. The east pediment of the great temple of Zeus 

at Olympia still tells us the story of their courtship. The King 

made a practice to test his daughter's suitors by competing with 

them in a chariot race: if the suitor won he would receive 

Hippodameia; if he lost he was put to death. Several suitors had 

tried, and had lost both race and life. To reduce the risks Pelops 

bribed the King's charioteer, Myrtilus, to remove the linchpins from 

the royal chariot, and promised to share the kingdom with him if their 

plan succeeded. In the contest that ensued the King's chariot broke 

down, and he was killed. Pelops married Hippodameia and ruled Elis, 

but instead of sharing the kingdom with Myrtilus he threw Myrtilus 

into the sea. As Myrtilus sank he laid an ominous curse upon Pelops 

and all his descendants. 

Pelops' daughter married Sthenelus, son of Perseus and King of 
Argos; the throne passed down to their son Eurystheus, and, after 
the latter's death, to his uncle Atreus. Atreus' sons Agamemnon and 
Menelaus married Clytaemnestra and Helen, daughters of King 
Tyndareus of Lacedaemon; and when Atreus and Tyndareus died, Agamemnon 
and Menelaus between them ruled all the eastern Peloponnesus from 
their respective capitals at Mycenae and Sparta. The Peloponnesus, 
or Island of Pelops, came to be called after their grandfather, 
whose descendants had quite forgotten the curse of Myrtilus. 

Meanwhile the remainder of Greece was also busy with heroes, usually 
founding cities. In the fifteenth century before our era, said Greek 
tradition, the iniquity of the human race provoked Zeus to overwhelm 
it with a Hood, from which one man, Deucalion, and his wife Pyrrha, 
alone were saved, in an ark or chest that came to rest on Mt. 

Parnassus. From Deucalion's son Hellen had come all the Greek 
tribes, and their united name, Hellenes. Hellen was grandfather of 
Achaeus and Ion, who begot the Achaean and Ionian tribes, which, after 
many wanderings, peopled respectively the Peloponnesus and Attica. One 
of Ion's descendants, Cecrops, with the help of the goddess Athena, 
founded (on a site whose acropolis had already been settled by 
Pelasgians) the city that was named after her, Athens. '02038 It was 
he, said the story, that gave civilization to Attica, instituted 

marriage, abolished bloody sacrifices, and taught his subjects to 
worship the Olympian gods- Zeus and Athena above the rest. 

The descendants of Cecrops ruled Athens as kings. The fourth in line 
was Erechtheus, to whom the city, honoring him as a god, would later 
dedicate one of its loveliest temples. His grandson, Theseus, about 
1250, merged the twelve demes or villages of Attica into one political 
unity, whose citizens, wherever they lived, were to be called 
Athenians; perhaps it was because of this historic synoikismos, or 
municipal cohabitation, that Athens, like Thebes and Mycenae, had a 
plural name. It was Theseus who brought order and power to Athens, 
ended the sacrifice of her children to Minos, and gave her people 
security on the roads by slaying the highwayman Procrustes, who had 
liked to stretch or cut the legs of his captives to make them fit 
his bed. After Theseus' death Athens worshiped him, too, as a god. 

As late as 476, in the skeptical age of Pericles, the city brought the 
bones of Theseus from Scyros and deposited them as sacred relics in 
the temple of Theseus. 

To the north, in Boeotia, a rival capital had equally stirring 
traditions, destined to become the very substance of Greek drama in 
the classic age. Late in the fourteenth century B.C. the Phoenician or 
Cretan or Egyptian prince Cadmus founded the city of Thebes at the 
meeting of the roads that cross Greece from east to west and from 
north to south, taught its people letters, and slew the dragon 
(perhaps an ancient phrase for an infecting or infesting organism) 
that hindered the settlers from using the waters of the Areian spring. 

From the dragon's teeth, which Cadmus sowed in the earth, sprang armed 
men who, like the Greeks of history, attacked one another until only 
five survived; these five, said Thebes, were the founders of her royal 
families. The government established itself on a hill citadel called 
the Cadmeia, where in our own time a "palace of Cadmus" has been 
unearthed. *02026 There, after Cadmus, reigned his son Polydorus, 
his grandson Labdacus, and his great-grandson Laius, whose son 
Oedipus, as all the world knows, slew his father and married his 
mother. When Oedipus died his sons quarreled over the scepter, as is 
the habit of princes. Eteocles drove out Polynices, who persuaded 
Adrastus, King of Argos, to attempt his restoration. Adrastus tried 

(ca. 1213), in the famous war of the Seven (Allies) against Thebes, 
and again sixteen years later in the war of the Epigoni, or sons of 
the Seven. This time both Eteocles and Polynices were killed, and 
Thebes was burned to the ground. 

Among the Theban aristocrats was one Amphitryon, who had a 
charming wife, Alcmene. Her Zeus visited while Amphitryon was gone 
to the wars; and Heracles (Hercules) was their son. *02027 Hera, who 
did not relish these jovial condescensions, sent two serpents to 
destroy the babe in the cradle; but the boy grasped one in each hand 
and strangled them both; therefore he was called Heracles, as having 
won glory through Hera. Linus, oldest name in the history of music, 
tried to teach the youth how to play and sing; but Heracles did not 
care for music, and slew Linus with the lyre. When he grew up- a 
clumsy, bibulous, gluttonous, kindly giant- he undertook to kill a 
lion that was ravaging the flocks of Amphitryon and Thespius. The 
latter, King of Thespiae, offered his home and his fifty daughters 
to Heracles, who rose to the occasion manfully. '020310 He slew the 
lion, and wore its skin as his garb. He married Megara, daughter of 
Creon of Thebes, and tried to settle down; but Hera sent a madness 
upon him, and unwittingly he killed his own children. He consulted the 
oracle at Delphi, and was instructed to go and live at Tiryns and 
serve Eurystheus, the Argive king, for twelve years; after which he 
would become an immortal god. He obeyed, and carried out for 
Eurystheus his famous twelve labors. *02028 Released by the king, 
Heracles returned to Thebes. He performed many other exploits; he 
joined the Argonauts, sacked Troy, helped the gods to win their battle 
against the giants, freed Prometheus, brought Alcestis back to life, 
and, now and then, killed his own friends by accident. After his death 
he was worshiped as hero and god; and since he had had countless 
loves, many tribes claimed him as their progenitor. *02029 

His sons made their home at Trachis in Thessaly; but Eurystheus, 
fearing lest they depose him in revenge for the unnecessary labors 
that he had laid upon their father, ordered the Trachinian king to 
exile them from Greece. The Heracleidae (i.e., children of Heracles) 
found refuge in Athens; Eurystheus sent an army to attack them, but 
they defeated and killed him. When Atreus came against them with 

another force, Hyllus, one of the sons, offered to fight any of 
Atreus' men in single combat, on condition that if he won, the 
Heracleidae should receive the kingdom of Mycenae; if he lost, the 
Heracleidae would depart and not return for fifty years, after which 
time their children were to receive Mycenae. '020312 He lost, and 
led his partisans into exile. Fifty years later a new generation of 
Heracleidae returned; it was they, not the Dorians, said Greek 
tradition, who, being resisted in their claims, conquered the 
Peloponnesus, and put an end to the Heroic Age. 

If the tale of Pelops and his descendants suggests the Asia Minor 
origin of the Achaeans, the theme of their destiny is struck in the 
story of the Argonauts. Like so many of the legends that served as 
both the historical tradition and the popular fiction of the Greeks, 
it is an excellent narrative, with all the elements of adventure, 
exploration, war, love, mystery, and death woven into a fabric so rich 
that after the dramatists of Athens had almost worn it bare it was 
rewoven into a very passable epic, in Hellenistic days, by 
Apollonius of Rhodes. It begins in Boeotian Orchomenos on the harsh 
note of human sacrifice, like Agamemnon's tragedy. Finding his land 
stricken with famine, King Athamas proposed to offer his son Phrixus 
to the gods. Phrixus learned of the plan and escaped from Orchomenos 
with his sister Helle, riding with her through the air on a ram with a 
golden fleece. But the ram was unsteady, and Helle fell off and was 
drowned in the strait which after her was called the Hellespont. 

Phrixus reached land and found his way to Colchis, at the farther 
end of the Black Sea; there he sacrificed the ram and hung up its 
fleece as an offering to Ares, god of war. Aietes, King of Colchis, 
set a sleepless dragon to watch the fleece, for an oracle had said 
that he should die if a stranger carried it off; and to better 
assure himself he decreed that all strangers coming to Colchis 
should be put to death. His daughter Medea, who loved strange men 
and ways, pitied the wayfarers who entered Colchis, and helped them to 
escape. Her father ordered her to be confined; but she fled to a 
sacred precinct near the sea, and lived there in bitter brooding 
till Jason found her wandering on the shore. 

Some twenty years before (Greek chronologists said about 1245), 

Pelias, son of Poseidon, had usurped the throne of Aeson, King of 
Iolcus in Thessaly. Aeson's infant son Jason had been hidden by 
friends, and had grown up in the woods to great strength and 
courage. One day he appeared in the market place, dressed in a leopard 
skin and armed with two spears, and demanded his kingdom. But he was 
simple as well as strong, and Pelias persuaded him to undertake a 
heavy task as the price of the throne- to recover the Golden Fleece. 

So Jason built the great ship Argo (the Swift), and called to the 
adventure the bravest spirits in Greece. Heracles came, with his 
beloved companion Hylas; and Peleus, father of Achilles; Theseus, 
Meleager, Orpheus, and the fleet-footed maiden Atalanta. As the vessel 
entered the Hellespont it was halted, seemingly by some force from 
Troy, for Heracles left the expedition to sack the city and kill its 
King Laomedon, and all his sons but Priam. 

When, after many tribulations, the Argonauts reached their goal, 
they were warned by Medea of the death that awaited all strangers in 
Colchis. But Jason persisted; and Medea agreed to help him gain the 
Fleece if he would take her to Thessaly and keep her as his wife until 
he died. He pledged himself to her, captured the Fleece with her 
aid, and fled back to his ship with her and his men. Many of them were 
wounded, but Medea quickly healed them with roots and herbs. When 
Jason reached Iolcus he again asked for the kingdom, and Pelias 
again delayed. Then Medea, by the arts of a sorceress, deceived the 
daughters of Pelias into boiling him to death. Frightened by her magic 
powers, the people drove her and Jason from Iolcus, and debarred him 
forever from the throne. '020313 The rest belongs to Euripides. 

A myth is often a bit of popular wisdom personified in poetic 
figures, as the story of Eden suggests the disillusionment of 
knowledge and the liabilities of love; legend is often a fragment of 
history swelling with new fictions as it rolls down the years. It is 
probable that in the generation before the historic siege of Troy 
the Greeks had tried to force their way through the Hellespont and 
open the Black Sea to colonization and trade; the story of the 
Argonauts may be the dramatized memory of that commercial exploration; 
and the "golden fleece" may refer to the woolen skins or cloths 
anciently used in northern Asia Minor to catch particles of gold 

carried down by the streams. '020314 A Greek settlement was actually 
made, about this time, on the island of Lemnos, not far from the 
Hellespont. The Black Sea proved inhospitable despite its propitiating 
name, and the fortress of Troy rose again after Heracles' visitation 
to discourage adventures in the strait. But the Greeks did not forget; 
they would come again, a thousand ships instead of one; and on the 
plain of Ilion the Achaeans would destroy themselves to free the 


How shall we reconstruct the life of Achaean Greece (1300-1100 B.C.) 
out of the poetry of its legends? Our chief reliance must be upon 
Homer, who may never have existed, and whose epics are younger by at 
least three centuries than the Achaean Age. It is true that archeology 
has surprised the archeologists by making realities of Troy, 

Mycenae, Tiryns, Cnossus, and other cities described in the Iliad, 
and by exhuming a Mycenaean civilization strangely akin to that 
which spontaneously takes form between the lines of Homer; so that our 
inclination today is to accept as real the central characters of his 
fascinating tales. None the less, it is impossible to say how far 
the poems reflect the age in which the poet lived, rather than the age 
of which he writes. We shall merely ask, then, what did Greek 
tradition, as gathered together in Homer, conceive the Homeric Age 
to be? In any case we shall have a picture of Hellas in buoyant 
transit from the Aegean culture to the civilization of historic 

1. Labor 

The Achaeans (i.e., the Greeks of the Heroic Age) impress us as less 
civilized than the Mycenaeans who preceded them, and more civilized 
than the Dorians who followed them. They are above all physical- the 
men tall and powerful, the women ravishingly lovely in an unusually 
literal sense. Like the Romans a thousand years after them, the 

Achaeans look down upon literary culture as effeminate degeneration; 
they use writing under protest, and the only literature they know is 
the martial lay and unwritten song of the troubadour. If we believe 
Homer we must suppose that Zeus had realized in Achaean society the 
aspiration of the American poet who wrote that if he were God he would 
make all men strong, and all women beautiful, and would then himself 
become a man. Homeric Greece is kalligynaika - '020315 it is a 
dream of fair women. The men too are handsome, with their long hair 
and their brave beards; the greatest gift that a man can give is to 
cut off his hair and lay it as an offering upon the funeral pyre of 
his friend. '020316 Nakedness is not yet cultivated; both sexes 
cover the body with a quadrangular garment folded over the 
shoulders, tied with a clasp pin, and reaching nearly to the knees; 
the women may add a veil or a girdle, and the men a loincloth- 
which, as dignity increases, will evolve into drawers and trousers. 

The well to do go in for costly robes, such as that which Priam brings 
humbly to Achilles in ransom for his son. '020317 The men are 
barelegged, the women bare-armed; both wear shoes or sandals outdoors, 
but are usually barefoot within. Both sexes wear jewelry, and the 
women and Paris anoint the body with "rose-scented oil." '020318 

How do these men and women live? Homer shows them to us tilling the 
soil, sniffing with pleasure the freshly turned dark earth, running 
their eyes with pride along the furrows they have ploughed so 
straight, winnowing the wheat, irrigating the fields, and banking up 
the streams against the winter floods; '020319 he makes us feel the 
despair of the peasant whose months of toil are washed out by "the 
torrent at the full that in swift course shatters the dykes, neither 
can the long line of mounds hold it in, nor the walls of the fruitful 
orchards stay its sudden coming." '020320 The land is hard to farm, 
for much of it is mountain, or swamp, or deeply wooded hill; the 
villages are visited by wild beasts, and hunting is a necessity before 
it becomes a sport. The rich are great stockbreeders, raising 
cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and horses; one Erichthonius keeps three 
thousand brood mares with their foals. '020321 The poor eat fish and 
grain, occasionally vegetables; warriors and the rich rely upon 
great portions of roast meat; they breakfast on meat and wine. 

Odysseus and his swineherd eat, between them, a small roast pig for 
luncheon, and a third of a five-year-old hog for dinner. '020322 
They have honey instead of sugar, meat fat instead of butter; 
instead of bread they eat cakes of grain, baked large and thin on a 
plate of iron or a hot stone. The diners do not recline, as the 
Athenians will do, but sit on chairs; not at a central table but along 
the walls, with little tables between the seats. There are no forks, 
spoons, or napkins, and only such knives as the guests may carry; 
eating is managed with the lingers. '020323 The staple drink, even 
among the poor and among children, is diluted wine. 

The land is owned by the family or the clan, not by the 
individual; the father administers and controls it, but he cannot sell 
it.'020324 In the Iliad great tracts are called the King's 
Commons or Demesne (temenos ); in effect it belongs to the community, 
and in its fields any man may pasture his flocks. In the Odyssey 
these common lands are being divided, and sold to- or appropriated by¬ 
rich or strong individuals; the commons disappears in ancient Greece 
precisely as in modern England. '020325 

The soil might yield metal as well as food; but the Achaeans neglect 
to mine the earth, and are content to import copper and tin, silver 
and gold, and a strange new luxury, iron. A shapeless mass of iron 
is offered as a precious prize at the games held in honor of 
Patroclus, '020326 it will make, says Achilles, many an agricultural 
implement. He says nothing of weapons, which are still of 
bronze.'020327 The Odyssey describes the tempering of 
iron, *02030 but that epic probably belongs to a later age than the 

The smith at his forge and the potter at his wheel work in their 
shops; other Homeric craftsmen- saddlers, masons, carpenters, 
cabinetmakers- go to work at the home that has ordered their 
product. They do not produce for a market, for sale or profit; they 
work long hours, but leisurely, without the sting and stimulus of 
visible competition. '020329 The family itself provides most of its 
needs; everyone in it labors with his hands; even the master of the 
house, even the local king, like Odysseus, makes bed and chairs for 

his home, boots and saddles for himself; and unlike the later Greeks 
he prides himself on his manual skill. Penelope, Helen, and 
Andromache, as well as their servant women, are busy with spinning, 
weaving, embroidery, and household cares; Helen seems lovelier when 
she displays her needlework to Telemachus '020330 than when she 
walks in beauty on the battlements of Troy. 

The craftsmen are freemen, never slaves as in classic Greece. 

Peasants may in emergency be conscripted to labor for the king, but we 
do not hear of serfs bound to the soil. Slaves are not numerous, nor 
is their position degraded; they are mostly female domestics, and 
occupy a position in effect as high as that of household servants 
today, except that they are bought and sold for long terms instead of 
for precariously brief engagements. On occasion they are brutally 
treated; normally they are accepted as members of the family, are 
cared for in illness or depression or old age, and may develop a 
humane relation of affection with master or mistress. Nausicaa helps 
her bondwomen to wash the family linen in the stream, plays ball with 
them, and altogether treats them as companions. '020331 If a slave 
woman bears a son to her master, the child is usually free. '020332 
Any man, however, may become a slave, through capture in battle or in 
piratical raids. This is the bitterest aspect of Achaean life. 

Homeric society is rural and local; even the "cities" are mere 
villages nestling against hilltop citadels. Communication is by 
messenger or herald, or, over long distances, by signal fires flashing 
from peak to peak. '020333 Overland traffic is made difficult and 
dangerous by roadless mountains and swamps and bridgeless streams. The 
carpenter makes carts with four wheels boasting of spokes and wooden 
tires; even so most goods are carried by mules or men. Trade by sea is 
easier, despite pirates and storms; natural harbors are numerous, 
and only on the perilous four-day trip from Crete to Egypt does the 
ship lose sight of land. Usually the boat is beached at night, and 
crew and passengers sleep on trusty land. In this age the 
Phoenicians are still better merchants and mariners than the Greeks. 

The Greeks revenge themselves by despising trade, and preferring 

The Homeric Greeks have no money, but use, as media for exchange, 
ingots of iron, bronze, or gold; the ox or cow is taken as a 
standard of value. A gold ingot of fifty-seven pounds is called a 
talent (talanton, weight). '020334 Much barter remains. Wealth is 
computed realistically in goods, especially cattle, rather than in 
pieces of metal or paper that may lose or alter their value at any 
moment through a change in the economic theology of men. There are 
rich and poor in Homer as in life; society is a rumbling cart that 
travels an uneven road; and no matter how carefully the cart is 
constituted, some of the varied objects in it will sink to the bottom, 
and others will rise to the top; the potter has not made all the 
vessels of the same earth, or strength, or fragility. Already in the 
second book of the Iliad we hear the sound of the class war; and 
as Thersites flies oratorically at Agamemnon we recognize an early 
variation on a persistent theme. '020335 

2. Morals 

As we read Homer the impression forms that we are in the presence of 
a society more lawless and primitive than that of Cnossus or 
Mycenae. The Achaean culture is a step backward, a transition 
between the brilliant Aegean civilization and the Dark Age that will 
follow the Dorian conquest. Homeric life is poor in art, rich in 
action; it is unmeditative, buoyant, swift; it is too young and strong 
to bother much about manner, or philosophy. Probably we misjudge it by 
seeing it in the violent crisis or disorderly aftermath of war. 

There are, it is true, many tender qualities and scenes. Even the 
warriors are generous and affectionate; between parent and child there 
is a love as profound as it is silent. Odysseus kisses the heads and 
shoulders of the members of his family when, after their long 
separation, they recognize him; and in like manner they kiss 
him. '020336 Helen and Menelaus weep when they learn that this noble 
lad, Telemachus, is the son of the lost Odysseus who fought so 
valiantly for them. '020337 Agamemnon himself is capable of tears so 

abundant that they remind Homer of a stream pouring over 
rocks. '020338 Friendships are firm among the heroes, though 
possibly a degree of sexual inversion enters into the almost 
neurotic attachment of Achilles to Patroclus, especially to 
Patroclus dead. Hospitality is lavish, for "from Zeus are all 
strangers and beggars." '020339 Maids bathe the foot or the body of 
the guest, anoint him with unguents, and may give him fresh 
garments; he receives food and lodging if he needs them, and perhaps a 
gift. '020340 "Lo," says "fair-cheeked Helen," as she places a 
costly robe in Telemachus' hands, "I too give thee this gift, dear 
child, a remembrance of the hands of Helen, against the day of thy 
longed-for marriage, for thy bride to wear." '020341 It is a picture 
that reveals to us the human tenderness and fine feeling that in the 
Iliad must hide themselves under the panoply of war. 

Even war does not thwart the Greek passion for games. Children and 
adults engage in skillful and difficult contests, apparently with 
fairness and good humor; Penelope's suitors play draughts, and throw 
the disk or javelin; the Phaeacian hosts of Odysseus play at quoits, 
and a strange medley of ball and dance. *02031 When the dead 
Patroclus has been cremated, according to Achaean custom, games are 
played that set a precedent for Olympia- foot races, disk-throwing, 
javelin-throwing, archery, wrestling, chariot races, and single combat 
fully armed; all in excellent spirit, except that only the ruling 
class may enter, and only the gods may cheat. '020343 

The other side of the picture is less pleasing. As a prize for the 
chariot race Achilles offers "a woman skilled in fair handiwork"; and 
on the funeral pyre horses, dogs, oxen, sheep, and human beings are 
sacrificed to keep the dead Patroclus well tended and fed. '020344 
Achilles treats Priam with fine courtesy, but only after dragging 
Hector's body in mangled ignominy around the pyre. To the Achaean 
male, human life is cheap; to take it is no serious matter; a moment's 
pleasure can replace it. When a town is captured the men are killed or 
sold into slavery; the women are taken as concubines if they are 
attractive, as slaves if they are not. Piracy is still a respected 
occupation; even kings organize marauding expeditions, plunder towns 
and villages, and enslave their population; "Indeed," says Thucydides, 
"this came to be the main source of livelihood among the early 

Hellenes, no disgrace being yet attached to such an 
occupation," '020345 but some glory; very much as, in our times, 
great nations may conquer and subjugate defenseless peoples without 
loss of dignity or righteousness. Odysseus is insulted when he is 
asked is he a merchant, "mindful of the gains of his greed"; '020346 
but he tells with pride how, on his return from Troy, his provisions 
having run low, he sacked the city of Ismarus and stored his ships 
with food; or how he ascended the river Aegyptus "to pillage the 
splendid fields, to carry off the women and little children, and to 
kill the men." '020347 No city is safe from sudden and unprovoked 

To this lighthearted relish for robbery and slaughter the Achaeans 
add an unabashed mendacity. Odysseus can hardly speak without lying, 
or act without treachery. Having captured the Trojan scout Dolon, he 
and Diomed promise him life if he will give them the information 
they require; he does, and they kill him. '020348 It is true that 
the other Achaeans do not quite equal Odysseus in dishonesty, but 
not because they would not; they envy and admire him, and look up to 
him as a model character; the poet who pictures him considers him a 
hero in every respect; even the goddess Athena praises him for his 
lying, and counts this among the special charms for which she loves 
him. "Cunning must he be and knavish," she tells him, smiling, and 
stroking him with her hand, "who would go beyond thee in all manner of 
guile, aye, though it were a god that met thee. Bold man, crafty in 
counsel, insatiate in deceit, not even in thine own land, it seems, 
wast thou to cease from guile and deceitful tales, which thou lovest 
from the bottom of thine heart." '020349 

In truth we ourselves are drawn to this heroic Munchausen of the 
ancient world. We discover some likable traits in him, and in the 
hardy and subtle people to which he belongs. He is a gentle father, 
and in his own kingdom a just ruler, who "wrought no wrong in deed or 
word to any man in the land." "Never again," says his swineherd, 

"shall I find a master so kind, how far soever I go, not though I come 
again to the house of my father and mother!" '020350 We envy 
Odysseus his "form tike unto the immortais," his frame so athletic 
that though nearing fifty he throws the disk farther than any of the 
Phaeacian youths; we admire his "steadfast heart," his "wisdom like to 

Jove's"; '020351 and our sympathy goes out to him when, in his 
despair of ever seeing again "the smoke leaping up from his own land," 
he yearns to die, or when, in the midst of his perils and sufferings, 
he steels himself with words that old Socrates loved to quote: "Be 
patient now, my soul; thou hast endured still worse than 
this." '020352 He is a man of iron in body and mind, yet every inch 
human, and therefore forgivable. 

The secret of the matter is that the Achaean's standard of 
judgment is as different from ours as the virtues of war differ from 
those of peace. He lives in a disordered, harassed, hungry world, 
where every man must be his own policeman, ready with arrow and spear, 
and a capacity for looking calmly at flowing blood. "A ravening 
belly," as Odysseus explains, "no man can hide.... Because of it are 
the benched ships made ready that bear evil to foeman over the 
unresting sea." '020353 Since the Achaean knows little security at 
home, he respects none abroad; every weakling is fair play; the 
supreme virtue, in his view, is a brave and ruthless intelligence. 

Virtue is literally virtus, manliness, arete, the quality of 
Ares or Mars. The good man is not one that is gentle and forbearing, 
faithful and sober, industrious and honest; he is simply one who 
fights bravely and well. A bad man is not one that drinks too much, 
lies, murders, and betrays; he is one that is cowardly, stupid, or 
weak. There were Nietzscheans long before Nietzsche, long before 
Thrasymachus, in the lusty immaturity of the European world. 

3. Sexes 

Achaean society is a patriarchal despotism tempered with the 
beauty and anger of woman, and the fierce tenderness of parental 
love. *02032 Theoretically the father is supreme: he may take as 
many concubines as he likes, *02033 he may offer them to his guests, 
he may expose his children on the mountaintops to die, or slaughter 
them on the altars of the thirsty gods. Such paternal omnipotence does 
not necessarily imply a brutal society, but only one in which the 
organization of the state has not yet gone far enough to preserve 
social order; and in which the family, to create such order, needs the 
powers that will later be appropriated by the state in a 

nationalization of the right to kill. As social organization advances, 
paternal authority and family unity decrease, freedom and 
individualism grow. In practice the Achaean male is usually 
reasonable, listens patiently to domestic eloquence, and is devoted to 
his children. 

Within the patriarchal framework the position of woman is far higher 
in Homeric than it will be in Periclean Greece. In the legends and the 
epics she plays a leading role, from Pelops' courtship of 
Hippodameia to Iphigenia's gentleness and Electra's hate. The 
gynaeceum does not coniine her, nor does the home; she moves freely 
among men and women alike, and occasionally shares in the serious 
discourse of the men, as Helen does with Menelaus and Telemachus. When 
the Achaean leaders wish to fire the imagination of their people 
against Troy they appeal not to political or racial or religious 
ideas, but to the sentiment for woman's beauty; the loveliness of 
Helen must put a pretty face upon a war for land and trade. Without 
woman the Homeric hero would be a clumsy boor, with nothing to live 
for or die for; she teaches him something of courtesy, idealism, and 
softer ways. 

Marriage is by purchase, usually in oxen or their equivalent, paid 
by the suitor to the father of the girl; the poet speaks of 
"cattle-bringing maidens." '020356 The purchase is reciprocal, for 
the father usually gives the bride a substantial dowry. The ceremony 
is familial and religious, with much eating, dancing, and 
loose-tongued merriment. "Beneath a blaze of torches they led the 
brides from their chambers through the city, and loud rose the bridal 
song. The young men whirled in the dance, and high among them did 
sound the flute and the lyre"; '020357 so changeless are the 
essentials of our life. Once married, the woman becomes mistress in 
her home, and is honored in proportion to her children. Love in the 
truest sense, as a profound mutual tenderness and solicitude, comes to 
the Greeks, as to the French, after marriage rather than before; it is 
not the spark thrown off by the contact or nearness of two bodies, but 
the fruit of long association in the cares and industries of the home. 

The Homeric wife is as faithful as her husband is not. There are three 
adulteresses in Homer- Clytaemnestra, Helen, and Aphrodite; but they 
do injustice to the mortal average, if not to the divine. 

Formed out of this background, the Homeric family (barring the 
enormities of legends that play no part in Homer) is a wholesome and 
pleasing institution, rich in fine women and loyal children. The women 
function not only as mothers but as workers; they grind the grain, 
card the wool, spin, weave, and embroider; they do little sewing, 
since garments are mostly without seams; and cooking is normally 
left to men. Amid these labors they bear and rear children, heal their 
hurts, pacify their quarrels, and teach them the manners, morals, 
and traditions of the tribe. There is no formal education, 
apparently no teaching of letters, no spelling, no grammar, no 
books; it is a boy's utopia. The girl is taught the arts of the 
home, the boy those of the chase and war; he learns to fish and 
swim, to till the fields, set snares, handle animals, aim the arrow 
and the lance, and take care of himself in all the emergencies of a 
half-lawless life. When the oldest boy grows up to manhood he becomes, 
in the absence of his father, the responsible head of the family. When 
he marries he brings his bride to his father's home, and the rhythm of 
the generations is renewed. The individual members of the family 
change with time, but the family is the lasting unit, surviving 
perhaps for centuries, and forging in the turbulent crucible of the 
home the order and character without which all government is in vain. 

4. The Arts 

The Achaeans leave to merchants and lowly scribes the art of 
writing, which has presumably been handed down to them from Mycenaean 
Greece; they prefer blood to ink and flesh to clay. In all of Homer 
there is but one reference to writing, '020358 and there in a 
characteristic context; a folded tablet is given to a messenger, 
directing the recipient to kill the messenger. If the Achaeans have 
time for literature it is only when war and marauding allow a peaceful 
interlude; the king or prince gathers his retainers about him for a 
feast, and some wandering minstrel, stringing the lyre, recounts in 
simple verse the exploits of ancestral heroes; this is, for the 
Achaeans, both poetry and history. Homer, perhaps wishing like 

Pheidias to engrave his own portrait upon his work, tells how 
Alcinous, King of the Phaeacians, calls for such song in 
entertaining Odysseus. "Summon hither the divine minstrel, 
Demodocus; for to him above all others has the god granted skill in 
song.... Then the herald drew near, leading the good minstrel whom the 
Muse loved above all other men, and gave him both good and evil; of 
his sight she deprived him, but gave him the gift of sweet 
song." '020359 

The only art except his own that interests Homer is toreutics- the 
hammering of metals into plastic forms. He says nothing of painting or 
sculpture, but calls up all his inspiration to describe the scenes 
inlaid or damascened upon Achilles' shield, or raised in relief upon 
Odysseus' brooch. He speaks briefly but illuminatingly about 
architecture. The common dwelling in Homer is apparently of sun-dried 
brick with a footing of stone; the floor is ordinarily of beaten 
earth, and is cleaned by scraping; the roof is of reeds overlaid with 
clay, and slopes only enough to carry off the rain. The doors are 
single or double, and may have bolts or keys. '020360 In the better 
dwellings the interior walls are of painted stucco, with ornamental 
border or frieze, and are hung with weapons, shields, and tapestries. 
There is no kitchen, no chimney, no windows; an opening in the roof of 
the central hall lets out some of the smoke that may rise from the 
hearth; the rest finds its way through the door, or settles in soot on 
the walls. Rich establishments have a bathroom; others content 
themselves with a tub. The furniture is of heavy wood, often 
artistically carved and tinished; Icmalius fashions for Penelope an 
armchair set with ivory and precious metals; and Odysseus makes for 
himself and his wife a massive bedstead designed to last for a 

It is characteristic of the age that its architecture ignores 
temples and spends itself upon palaces, just as Periclean architecture 
will neglect palaces and lavish itself upon temples. We hear of the 
"sumptuous home of Paris, which that prince had built with the aid 
of the most cunning architects in Troy"; '020361 of King Alcinous' 
great mansion, with walls of bronze, frieze of blue-glass paste, doors 
of silver and gold, and other features that may belong rather to 

poetry than to architecture; we hear something of Agamemnon's royal 
residence at Mycenae, and a great deal about Odysseus' palace at 
Ithaca. This has a front court, paved in part with stone, surrounded 
by a palisade or plastered wall, and adorned with trees, stalls for 
horses, and a heap of steaming dung on which Odysseus' dog Argos makes 
his bed in the sun. *02034 A large pillared porch leads to the 
house; here the slaves sleep and often the visitors. Within, an 
anteroom opens upon a central hall supported by pillars, and sometimes 
lighted not only by the opening in the roof, but by a narrow 
clerestory or open space between the architrave and the eaves. At 
night braziers burning on tall stands give an unsteady illumination. 

In the center of the hall is the hearth, around whose sacred fire 
the family gathers in the evening for warmth and good cheer, and 
debates the ways of neighbors, the willfulness of children, and the 
vicissitudes of states. 

5. The State 

How are these passionate and vigorous Achaeans ruled? In peace by 
the family, in crisis by the clan. The clan is a group ( genos, 
literally a genus) of persons acknowledging a common ancestor and a 
common chieftain. The citadel of the chieftain is the origin and 
center of the city; there, as his force subsides into usage and law, 
clan after clan gathers, and makes a political as well as a kinship 
community. When the chieftain desires some united action from his clan 
or city, he summons its free males to a public assembly, and submits 
to them a proposal which they may accept or reject, but which only the 
most important members of the group may propose to change. In this 
village assembly- the one democratic element in an essentially 
feudal and aristocratic society- skilled speakers who can sway the 
people are valuable to the state; already, in old Nestor, whose 
voice "Hows sweeter than honey from his tongue," '020362 and in 
wily Odysseus, whose words fall "like snowflakes upon the 
people," '020363 we have the beginnings of that stream of eloquence 
which will reach greater heights in Greece than in any other 

civilization, and will finally submerge it in ruin. 

When all the clans must act at once the chieftains follow the lead 
of the strongest of their number as king, and report to him with their 
armies of freemen and attendant slaves. Those chieftains who are 
nearest to the king in residence and respect are called the King's 
Companions; they will be called that again in Philip's Macedonia and 
in Alexander's camp. In their boule, or council, the nobles exercise 
full freedom of speech, and address the king as merely and temporarily 
first among equals. Out of these institutions- public assembly, 
council of nobles, and king- will come, in a hundred varieties and 
under a thousand shibboleths and phrases, the constitutions of the 
modern Western world. 

The powers of the king are narrowly limited and very wide. They 
are limited in space, for his kingdom is small. They are limited in 
time, for he may be deposed by the Council, or by a right which the 
Achaeans readily recognize- the right of the stronger. Otherwise his 
rule is hereditary, and has only the vaguest boundaries. He is above 
all a military commander, solicitous for his army, without which he 
might be found in the wrong. He sees to it that it is well equipped, 
well fed, well trained; that it has poisoned arrows, '020364 lances, 
helmets, greaves, spears, breastplates, shields, and chariots. So long 
as the army defends him he is the government- legislature, 
executive, judiciary. He is the high priest of the state religion, and 
sacrifices for the people. His decrees are the laws, and his decisions 
are final; there is as yet no word for law. '020365 Below him the 
Council may sit occasionally to judge grave disputes; then, as if to 
set a precedent for all courts, it asks for precedents, and decides 
accordingly. Precedent dominates law because precedent is custom, 
and custom is the jealous older brother of law. Trials of any kind, 
however, are rare in Homeric society; there are hardly any public 
agencies of justice; each family must defend and revenge itself. 

Violence abounds. 

To support his establishment the king does not levy taxes; he 
receives, now and then, "gifts" from his subjects. But he would be a 
poor king if he depended upon such presents. His chief income is 
derived, presumably, from tolls on the plunder that his soldiers and 
his ships gather on land or sea. Perhaps that is why, late in the 

thirteenth century, the Achaeans are found in Egypt and Crete; in 
Egypt as unsuccessful buccaneers, in Crete as passing conquerors. 

Then, suddenly, we hear of them inflaming their people with a tale 
of humiliating rape, collecting all the forces of all the tribes, 
equipping a hundred thousand men, and sailing in a vast and 
unparalleled armada of a thousand ships to try their fortunes 
against the spearhead of Asia on the plains and hill of Troy. 


Was there such a siege? We only know that every Greek historian, and 
every Greek poet, and almost every temple record or legend in 
Greece, took it for granted; that archeology has placed the ruined 
city, generously multiplied, before our eyes; and that today, as until 
the last century, the story and its heroes are accepted as in 
essence real. '020366 An Egyptian inscription of Rameses III reports 
that "the isles were restless" toward 1196 B.C. '020367 and Pliny 
alludes to a Rameses "in whose time Troy fell." '020368 The great 
Alexandrian scholar Eratosthenes, on the basis of traditional 
genealogies collated late in the sixth century before Christ by the 
geographer-historian Hecataeus, calculated the date of the siege as 
1194 B.C. 

The ancient Persians and Phoenicians agreed with the Greeks in 
tracing the great war to four abductions of beautiful women. The 
Egyptians, they said, stole Io from Argos, the Greeks stole Europa 
from Phoenicia, and Medea from Colchis; did not a just balancing of 
the scales require that Paris should abduct Helen? *02035 '020369 
Stesichorus in his penitent years, and after him Herodotus and 
Euripides, refused to admit that Helen had gone to Troy; she had only 
gone to Egypt, under constraint, and had merely waited there a dozen 
years for Menelaus to come and find her; besides, asked Herodotus, who 
could believe that the Trojans would fight ten years for one woman? 
Euripides attributed the expedition to excess population in Greece, 
and the consequent urge to expansion; '020370 so old are the 
youngest excuses of the will to power. 

Nevertheless it is possible that some such story was used to make 
the adventure digestible for the common Greek; men must have phrases 

if they are to give their lives. Whatever may have been the face and 
shibboleth of the war, its cause and essence lay, almost beyond doubt, 
in the struggle of two groups of powers for possession of the 
Hellespont and the rich lands lying about the Black Sea. All Greece 
and all western Asia saw it as a decisive conflict; the little nations 
of Greece came to the aid of Agamemnon, and the peoples of Asia 
Minor sent repeated reinforcements to Troy. It was the beginning of 
a struggle that would be renewed at Marathon and Salamis, at Issus and 
Arbela, at Tours and Granada, at Lepanto and Vienna.... 

Of the events and aftermath of the war we can relate only what the 
poets and dramatists of Greece have told us; we accept this as 
rather literature than history, but all the more for that reason a 
part of the story of civilization; we know that war is ugly, and 
that the Iliad is beautiful. Art (to vary Aristotle) may make even 
terror beautiful- and so purify it- by giving it significance and 
form. Not that the form of the Iliad is perfect; the structure is 
loose, the narrative is sometimes contradictory or obscure, the 
conclusion does not conclude; nevertheless the perfection of the parts 
atones for the disorder of the whole, and with all its minor faults 
the story becomes one of the great dramas of literature, perhaps of 

(I) *02036 At the opening of the poem the Greeks have already 
besieged Troy for nine years in vain; they are despondent, homesick, 
and decimated with disease. They had been delayed at Aulis by sickness 
and a windless sea; and Agamemnon had embittered Clytaemnestra, and 
prepared his own fate, by sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia for a 
breeze. On the way up the coast the Greeks had stopped here and 
there to replenish their supplies of food and concubines; Agamemnon 
had taken the fair Chryseis, Achilles the fair Briseis. A soothsayer 
now declares that Apollo is withholding success from the Greeks 
because Agamemnon has violated the daughter of Apollo's priest, 
Chryses. The King restores Chryseis to her father, but, to console 
himself and point a tale, he compels Briseis to leave Achilles and 
take Chryseis' place in the royal tent. Achilles convokes a general 

assembly, and denounces Agamemnon with a wrath that provides the first 
word and the recurring theme of the Iliad. He vows that neither he 
nor his soldiers will any longer stir a hand to help the Greeks. 

(II) We pass in review the ships and tribes of the assembled 
force, and (III) see bluff Menelaus engaging Paris in single combat to 
decide the war. The two armies sit down in civilized truce; Priam 
joins Agamemnon in solemn sacrifice to the gods. Menelaus overcomes 
Paris, but Aphrodite snatches the lad safely away in a cloud and 
deposits him, miraculously powdered and perfumed, upon his marriage 
bed. Helen bids him return to the fight, but he counterproposes that 
they "give the hour to dalliance." The lady, flattered by desire, 
yields. (IV) Agamemnon declares Menelaus victor, and the war is 
apparently ended; but the gods, in imitative council on Olympus, 
demand more blood. Zeus votes for peace, but withdraws his vote in 
terrified retreat when Hera, his spouse, directs her speech upon 
him. She suggests that if Zeus will agree to the destruction of Troy 
she will allow him to raze Mycenae, Argos, and Sparta to the ground. 

The war is renewed; many a man falls pierced by arrow, lance, or 
sword, and "darkness enfolds his eyes." 

(V) The gods join in the merry slicing game; Ares, the awful god 
of war, is hurt by Diomed's spear, "utters a cry as of nine thousand 
men," and runs off to complain to Zeus. (VI) In a pretty interlude the 
Trojan leader Hector, before rejoining the battle, bids good-by to his 
wife Andromache. "Love," she whispers to him, "thy stout heart will be 
thy death; nor hast thou pity of thy child or me, who shall soon be 
a widow. My father and my mother and my brothers all are slain; but, 
Hector, thou art father to me and mother, and thou art the husband 
of my youth. Have pity, then, and stay here in the tower." "Full 
well I know," he answers, "that Troy will fall, and I foresee the 
sorrow of my brethren and the King; for them I grieve not; but to 
think of thee a slave in Argos unmans me almost. Yet, even so, I 
will not shirk the fight." '020371 His infant son Astyanax, destined 
shortly to be flung over the walls to death by the victorious 
Greeks, screams in fright at Hector's waving plumes, and the hero 
removes his helmet that he may laugh, weep, and pray over the 

wondering child. Then he strides down the causeway to the battle, 
and (VII) engages Ajax, King of Salamis, in single combat. They 
fight bravely, and separate at nightfall with exchange of praise and 
gifts- a flower of courtesy floating on a sea of blood. (VIII) After a 
day of Trojan victories Hector bids his warriors rest. 

Thus made harangue to them Hector; and roaring the Trojans 

Then from the yoke loosed their war-steeds sweating, and each by 
his chariot 

Tethered his horses with thongs. And then they brought from the 

Hastily, oxen and goodly sheep; and wine honey-hearted 

Gave them,... and corn from the houses. 

Firewood they gathered withal; and then from the plain to the 

Rose on the winds the sweet savor. And these by the highways of 

Hopeful sat through the night, and many their watchfires burning. 

Even as when in the sky the stars shine out round the night-orb. 

Wondrous to see, and the winds are laid, and the peaks and the 

Tower to the view, and the glades come out, and the glorious 

Stretches itself to its widest, and sparkle the stars 

Gladdening the heart of the toil-wearied shepherd- even as 

'Twixt the black ships and the river of Xanthus glittered the 

Built by the horse-taming Trojans by Ilium. 

Meanwhile the war-wearied horses, champing spelt and white barley, 

Close by their chariots, waited the coming of fair-throned 
Dawn. '020372 

(IX) Nestor, King of Elian Pylus, advises Agamemnon to restore 

Briseis to Achilles; he agrees, and promises Achilles half of Greece 
if he will rejoin the siege; but Achilles continues to pout. (X) 

Odysseus and Diomed make a two man sally upon the Trojan camp at 
night, and slay a dozen chieftains. (XI) Agamemnon leads his army 
valiantly, is wounded, and retires. Odysseus, surrounded, fights 
like a lion; Ajax and Menelaus cleave a path to him, and save him 
for a bitter life. (XII-XIII) When the Trojans advance to the walls 
that the Greeks have built about their camp (XIV) Hera is so disturbed 
that she resolves to rescue the Greeks. Oiled, perfumed, ravishingly 
gowned, and bound with Aphrodite's aphrodisiac girdle, she seduces 
Zeus to a divine slumber while Poseidon helps the Greeks to drive 
the Trojans back. (XV) Advantage fluctuates; the Trojans reach the 
Greek ships, and the poet rises to a height of fervid narrative as the 
Greeks fight desperately in a retreat that must mean death. 

(XVI) Patroclus, beloved of Achilles, wins his permission to lead 
Achilles' troops against Troy; Hector slays him, and (XVII) fights 
Ajax fiercely over the body of the youth. (XVIII) Hearing of 
Patroclus' death, Achilles at last resolves to fight. His 
goddess-mother Thetis persuades the divine smithy, Hephaestus, to 
forge for him new arms and a mighty shield. (XIX) Achilles is 
reconciled with Agamemnon, (XX) engages Aeneas, and is about to kill 
him when Poseidon rescues him for Virgil's purposes. (XXI) Achilles 
slaughters a host of Trojans, and sends them to Hades with long 
genealogical speeches. The gods take up the fight: Athena lays Ares 
low with a stone, and when Aphrodite, going for a soldier, tries to 
save him, Athena knocks her down with a blow upon her fair breast. 
Hera cuffs the ears of Artemis; Poseidon and Apollo content themselves 
with words. (XXII) All Trojans but Hector fly from Achilles; Priam and 
Hecuba counsel Hector to stay behind the walls, but he refuses. Then 
suddenly, as Achilles advances upon him, Hector takes to his heels. 
Achilles pursues him three times around the walls of Troy; Hector 
makes a stand, and is killed. 

(XXIII) In the subsiding finale of the drama Patroclus is cremated 
with ornate ritual. Achilles sacrifices to him many cattie, twelve 
captured Trojans, and his own tong hair. The Greeks honor Patroctus 

with games, and (XXIV) Achilles drags the corpse of Hector behind 
his chariot three times around the pyre. Priam comes in state and 
sorrow to beg for the remains of his son. Achilles relents, grants a 
truce of twelve days, and allows the aged king to take the cleansed 
and anointed body back to Troy. 


Here the great poem suddenly ends, as if the poet had used up his 
share of a common-story, and must leave the rest to another minstrel's 
lay. We are told by the later literature how Paris, standing beside 
the battle, slew Achilles with an arrow that pierced his vulnerable 
heel, and how Troy fell at last through the stratagem of the wooden 

The victors themselves were vanquished by their victory, and 
returned in weary sadness to their longed-for homes. Many of them were 
ship-wrecked, and some of these, stranded on alien shores, founded 
Greek colonies in Asia, the Aegean, and Italy. '020373 Menelaus, who 
had vowed that he would kill Helen, fell in love with her anew when 
the "goddess among women" came to him in the calm majesty of her 
loveliness; gladly he took her back to be his queen again in Sparta. 

When Agamemnon reached Mycenae he "clasped his land and kissed it, and 
many were the hot tears that streamed from his eyes." '020374 But 
during his long absence Clytaemnestra had taken his cousin Aegisthus 
for husband and king; and when Agamemnon entered the palace they 
slew him. 

Sadder still was the home-coming of Odysseus; and here probably 
another Homer has told the tale in a poem less powerful and heroic, 
gentler and pleasanter, than the Iliad. *02037 Odysseus, says the 
Odyssey, is shipwrecked on the island of Ogygia, a fairyland Tahiti, 
whose goddess-queen Calypso holds him as her lover for eight years 
while secretly he pines for his wife Penelope and his son 
Telemachus, who pine for him at Ithaca. 

(I) Athena persuades Zeus to bid Calypso let Odysseus depart. The 
goddess flies to Telemachus, and hears with sympathy the youth's 
simple tale: how the princes of Ithaca and its vassal isles are paying 
court to Penelope, seeking through her the throne, and how meanwhile 
they live gaily in Odysseus' palace, and consume his substance. (II) 
Telemachus bids the suitors disperse, but they laugh at his youth. 
Secretly he embarks upon the sea in search of his father, while 
Penelope, mourning now for both husband and son, holds off the suitors 
by promising to wed one of them when she has completed her web- of 
which she unweaves at night as much as she has woven by day. (Ill) 
Telemachus visits Nestor at Pylus and (IV) Menelaus at Sparta, but 
neither can tell him where to find his father. The poet paints an 
attractive picture of Helen settled and subdued, but still divinely 
beautiful; she has long since been forgiven her sins, and remarks that 
when Troy fell she had grown tired of the city anyway. *02038 

(V) Now for the first time Odysseus enters the tale. "Sitting on the 
shore" of Calypso's isle, "his eyes were dry of tears, and his sweet 
life ebbed away, as he longed mournfully for his return. By night 
indeed he would sleep by Calypso's side perforce in the hollow 
caves, unwilling beside the willing nymph, but by day he would sit 
on the rocks and the sands, rocking his soul with tears and groans, 
and looking over the unresting sea." '020378 Calypso, having 
detained him one night more, bids him make a raft and set out alone. 

(VI) After many struggles with the ocean, Odysseus lands in the 
mythical country of Phaeacia (possibly Corcyra-Corfu), and is found by 
the maiden Nausicaa, who leads him to the palace of her father, King 
Alcinous. The lass falls in love with the strong-limbed, 
strong-hearted hero, and confides to her companions: "Listen, my 
white-armed maidens.... Erewhile this man seemed to me uncomely, but 
now he is like the gods that keep wide heaven. Would that such a one 
might be called my husband, dwelling here, and that it might please 
him here to abide." '020379 (VII-VIII) Odysseus makes so good an 
impression that Alcinous offers him Nausicaa's hand. Odysseus 
excuses himself, but is glad to tell the story of his return from 


(XX) His ships (he tells the King) were borne off their course to 
the land of the Lotus-Eaters, who gave his men such honey-sweet 
lotus fruit that many forgot their homes and their longing, and 
Odysseus had to force them back to their ships. There they sailed to 
the land of the Cyclopes, one-eyed giants who lived without law or 
labor on an island abounding in wild grain and fruit. Caught in a cave 
by the Cyclop Polyphemus, who ate several of his men, Odysseus saved 
the remnant by lulling the monster to sleep with wine, and then 
burning out his single eye. (X) The wanderers took again to the sea, 
and came to the land of the Laestrygonians; but these, too, were 
cannibals, and only Odysseus' ship escaped them. He and his mates 
reached next the isle of Aenea, where the lovely and treacherous 
goddess Circe lured most of them into her cave with song, drugged 
them, and turned them into swine. Odysseus was about to slay her 
when he changed his mind and accepted her love. He and his comrades, 
now restored to human form, remained with Circe a full year. (XI) 
Setting sail again, they came to a land perpetually dark, which proved 
to be the entrance to Hades; there Odysseus talked with the shades 
of Agamemnon, Achilles, and his mother. (XII) Resuming their voyage, 
they passed the island of the Sirens, against whose seductive 
strains Odysseus protected his men by putting wax into their ears. 

In the straits (Messina?) of Scylla and Charybdis his ship was 
wrecked, and he alone survived, to live for eight long years on 
Calypso's isle. 

(XIII) Alcinous is so moved with sympathy by Odysseus' tale that 
he bids his men row Odysseus to Ithaca, but to blindfold him lest he 
learn and reveal the location of their happy land. On Ithaca the 
goddess Athena guides the wanderer to the hut of his old swineherd 
Eumaeus, who (XIV), though not recognizing him, receives him with 
Gargantuan hospitality. (XV) When Telemachus is led by the goddess 
to the same hut Odysseus (XVI) makes himself known to his son, and 
both "wail aloud vehemently." He unfolds to Telemachus a plan for 
slaying all the suitors. (XVII-XVIII) In the guise of a beggar he 
enters his palace, sees the wooers feasting at his expense, and 

rages inwardly when he hears that they lie with his maidservants at 
night even while courting Penelope by day. (XIX-XX) He is insulted and 
injured by the suitors, but he defends himself with vigor and 
patience. (XXI) By this time the wooers have discovered the trick of 
Penelope's web, and have forced her to finish it. She agrees to 
marry whichever of them can string Odysseus' great bow- which hangs on 
the wall- and shoot an arrow through the openings of twelve axes 
ranged in line. They all try, and all fail. Odysseus asks for a 
chance, and succeeds. (XXII) Then with a wrath that frightens 
everyone, he casts%2