Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/34

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24
HISTORY

existence. The complexity of the map may be appreciated by observing that Crete alone had twenty-three distinct states. In Greece, as elsewhere, cities in which life was at once national and municipal proved the most favorable soil for the growth of free institutions.


THE INDIVIDUALISM OF GREECE

The keynote of the formative age of Greece was the rise of individualism. Poets freed themselves from the Homeric conventions, and dealt not as of yore with the deeds of ancient heroes, but with their own emotions, ideas, and experiences. They laid aside the measure and diction of the Epos and wrote every man and woman in his native rhythm and dialect. Sculptors and painters, long since accustomed to work in the spirit of a school, and to elaborate more and more scrupulously certain types of art, now became conscious that so much of their work was of their own creation that they began laying claim to it by adding their signatures.

The problems of religion were no longer satisfactorily settled by the Homeric revelation. They forced themselves directly upon the attention of every thinking individual. One man remained orthodox, another took refuge in the emotional cults of Dionysos and Demeter, another revolted and sought to explain the world as a product of natural laws and not of divine creation. Men who had earlier been obscured by their respective families, clans, and brotherhoods, now severed themselves for all public purposes from these associations, recognizing only the authority of a state which threw open its privileges to all alike. There were revolters in politics as there were revolters in religion and in art: the tyrants are the kinsmen of the personal poets, Archilochus, Sappho, Alcæus, and of scientists like Thales of Miletus and the Ionian physicists.

The Asiatic Greeks were in general the leaders at this time, and Miletus was the greatest city in the entire Greek world.


SPARTA—ATHENS—THEBES

The sixth century which followed was an age of reaction. Men shrank from the violent outbreaks of the preceding generations. It was the time of the "seven wise men," of the precept "nothing in excess," of the curbing of aristocracies with their claim to be a law