The Story of the Greeks
Three or four centuries after the siege of Troy, there lived a poor old blind poet who wandered about from place to place, playing upon his lyre, and reciting wonderful verses which told about the adventures of the Greek heroes, and their great deeds during the Trojan War.
We are told that this old man, whose name was Ho´mer, had not always been poor and blind, but that, having embarked by mistake upon a vessel manned by pirates, he not only had been robbed of all his wealth, and blinded, but had been left upon a lonely shore.
By some happy chance, poor blind Homer found his
The Greeks who could recite Homer's poems went next to the islands and Asia Minor, stopping at every place where Greek was spoken, to tell about the wrath of Achilles, the death of Patroclus, Hector, or old Priam, the burning of Troy, the wanderings of Ulysses, and the return of the Greeks. Other youths learned the poems; and so, although they were not written down for many a year, they were constantly recited and sung, and thus kept alive in the memory of the people.
As for Homer, their author, we know but little about him. We are told that he lived to be very old, and that although he was poor as long as he lived, and forced to earn his living by reciting his songs, he was greatly honored after his death.
His two great heroic poems—the Iliad, telling all about the Trojan War, and the Od´ys-sey, relating how Ulysses sailed about for ten years on his way home from Troy—were finally written down, and kept so carefully that they can still be read to-day. Such was the admiration felt for these poems, that some years after Homer's death an attempt was made to find out more about him, and about the place where he was born.
Fifty cities claimed the honor of giving him birth; but, although it was never positively found out where he was born, most people thought the Island of Chi´os was his birthplace. The Greek towns, wishing to show how much they admired the works of Homer, used to send yearly gifts to this place, the native land of the grandest poet the world has ever known.[Pg 61]
The city of Sparta, founded in the days of the Pelasgians, and once ruled over by Menelaus and Helen, had fallen, as we have seen, into the hands of the Heraclidæ when they came back to the Peloponnesus after their exile of a hundred years. It was first governed by A-ris-to-de´mus, one of their three leaders; and, as records soon began to be kept, we know a great deal about the early history of this famous place.
As the town had formerly belonged to the Heraclidæ, and had been ruled by one of their ancestors, called Lac-e-dæ´mon, they called it by his name, and the country around it they named La-co´ni-a. Having won back the town by fighting, the Heraclidæ said that they would attend to war and politics, and make the conquered people till the ground.
The old inhabitants of Laconia, therefore, went on living in the country, where they sowed and harvested for the benefit of the Spartans. All the prisoners of war, however, became real slaves. They were obliged to serve the Spartans in every way, and were called He´lots.
When Aristodemus died, his twin sons were both made kings; and, as each of them left his throne to his descendants, Sparta had two kings, instead of one, from this time on. One member of the royal family, although he never bore the name of king, is the most noted man in Spartan history. This is Ly-cur´gus, the son of one ruler, the brother of another, and the guardian of an infant king named Char-i-la´us.[Pg 62]