Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/35

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25
HISTORY

unto themselves. During this epoch of repression a rich and diversified culture which had developed in Sparta was narrowed down to one single imperious interest—war and preparation for war. With the leveling down of the Spartan aristocracy went the decay of the art and letters of which it had been the bearer. The Spartan people became an armed camp living a life of soldierly comradeship and of puritanical austerity, ever solicitous lest its serfs (there were fifteen of them to every Spartan) should revolt and massacre, ever watchful lest the leadership which it had established in Greek affairs (there were 15,000 Spartans and 3,000,000 Greeks) should be imperiled. In Athens the course of development had been directly the opposite of this. There, too, the nobles were ousted from their monopoly of political rights, but on the other hand, the serfs were admitted to citizenship. The men who molded Athens in its period of democratic growth were themselves aristocrats who never doubted for a moment that the culture of their order would ennoble the life of the masses. Hence no pains or expenses were spared by them to build and maintain—at their own cost—public palæstræ and gymnasia in which poor and rich alike could obtain a suppleness and grace of body that added charm and vigor to their movements; and to institute so-called musical contests in which the people generally had to participate, and the preparation for which incited all classes to study literature and art—above all to learn the words and the music of lyric and dramatic choruses. The aristocracy died down in Athens, but the Athenians became the aristocracy of all Greece.

That they did so was largely the work of their most brilliant statesman, Themistocles, whose "Life" by Plutarch is included in The Harvard Classics.[1] Under his far-sighted guidance Athens built an invincible fleet at great financial sacrifice, cooperated with Sparta with singular devotion and unparalleled heroism in beating off the Persians, and established her maritime empire. Aristides[2] was at first his unsuccessful rival and later his faithful collaborator, and Pericles,[3] whose interest in science, philosophy, jurisprudence, art, and literature makes him the best exponent of the culminating epoch of Greek development, profited sagaciously by their work. He both perfected the institutions of Athenian democracy and defined and

  1. Harvard Classics, xii, 5.
  2. H. C., xii, 78.
  3. H. C., xii, 35.