Page:Essays and Addresses.djvu/18

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kinship with the gods through the heroes. Thirdly, the birth of an historical sense. Before the Persian crisis history had been represented among the Greeks only by local or family traditions. The Wars of Liberation had given to Herodotus the first genuinely historical inspiration felt by a Greek. These wars showed him that there was a corporate life, higher than that of the city, of which the story might be told; and they offered to him as a subject the drama of the collision between East and West. With him, the spirit of history was born into Greece; and his work, called after the nine Muses, was indeed the first utterance of Clio. The historical spirit was the form in which the general scepticism of the age acted on the belief in the heroic legends. For Herodotus himself, the heroes are still godlike. But for Thucydides, towards the end of the century, the genuine hero-ship of Agamemnon and Pelops is no more; he criticises their probable resources and motives as he might have discussed the conduct or the income of a contemporary. They are real to him; but they are real as men; and, for that very reason, unreal as claimants of a half-divine character.

The great cycles of heroic legends furnished the principal subjects of Attic tragedy. Three distinct methods of treating these legends appear in Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

The spirit of Æschylus is in all things more Hellenic than Athenian. The Pan-hellenic heroism of which in the struggle with Persia he had himself