Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/36

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organized its imperial mission. No man in high place ever took more seriously the doctrine that all citizens were equally capacitated for public service, yet no more ardent imperialist than he ever lived. The truth is that Athenian democracy with all that it implies was impossible without the Athenian maritime empire. The subject allies were as indispensable to the Athenians as the slaves, mechanics, and traders are to the citizens of Plato's ideal republic.

This empire Sparta sought to destroy, and to this end waged fruitless war on Athens for ten years (431-421 B. C.). What she failed to accomplish, Alcibiades,[1] the evil genius of Athens, effected, for at his insistence the democrats embarked on the fatal Sicilian expedition. After the dreadful disaster which they sustained before Syracuse (413 B. C.), their dependencies revolted and ceased paying them tribute; whereupon, unable to make head against the Sicilians, Spartans, and Persians, who had joined forces against her, Athens succumbed in 405 B. C. It is doubtful whether any other city of 50,000 adult males ever undertook works of peace and war of similar magnitude. Athens led Greece when Greece led the world.

The Spartans took her place, but they held it only through the support given them by their confederates, Persia and Syracuse. When they quarreled with the Persians they at once lost it; regained it by the Kings' Peace of 387 B. C., but only to fall before Thebes sixteen years later. Thebes depended solely upon her great warrior-statesman, Epaminondas. His death in battle, in 362 B. C., meant the downfall of the Theban supremacy, and at the birth of Alexander the Great in 356 B. C. the claim could be made that what the Greeks had sought for two hundred years had now been accomplished: all the European Greek cities, great and small, were again free as they had been in the seventh century. In reality, as Plutarch's biography of Demosthenes[2] shows, they lived rent by factional struggles, in constant fear and envy of one another, and under the shadow of a great peril which union, not disunion, could alone avert.


Philip of Macedon united Greece under his own leadership, and with the power thus secured Alexander the Great laid the Persian

  1. H. C., xii, 106.
  2. H. C., xii, 191.