The Story of the Greeks

Page: 39

The Athenians had all promised to obey Draco's laws, so they were obliged to submit for a short time. Then, driven wild by their strictness, rich and poor rose up, drove the unhappy lawmaker out of the city, and forced him to go to the neighboring Island of Æ-gi´na. Here Draco spent all the rest of his life.

The people were now in a state of great uncertainty. The laws of Draco were too severe, but they had no others to govern the city. While they were hesitating, not knowing what to do, Cy´lon, an Athenian citizen, tried to make himself king.

His first move was to gather together a few of his friends, and go secretly to the Acropolis, or fortress of Athens, which he took by surprise. Now that he was master of the fortress, he tried to force the Athenians to recognize him as their king, but this they stoutly refused to do.

Instead of yielding, the Athenians armed themselves, met the rebels in a bloody battle, and killed Cylon himself in the midst of the fight.

As their leader was now dead, and they feared the anger of their fellow-citizens, Cylon's friends fled in haste to the temple of the goddess Athene. Once inside the sacred building, they felt quite safe; for no person could be killed in a temple, or be taken out of it by force.

Although they had neither food nor drink, the rebels refused to leave the temple, until the archon Meg´a-cles, fearing that they would die there, and thus defile the temple, promised to do them no harm if they would only come out.

The rebels did not quite trust to this promise, so they[Pg 89] came out of the temple holding a small cord, one end of which was fastened to the statue of the goddess. They were thus still under her protection, and any one touching them would be guilty of a great crime.

When the men reached the street at the bottom of the hill where the temple stood, the cord to which they were all clinging suddenly broke. Megacles, the first to notice this, said that the goddess refused to protect the rebels any longer, and gave orders to kill the unhappy men.


Shortly after the death of Cylon and the murder of his followers, a great many troubles came upon the city of Athens. The people were frightened, and soon the friends of Cylon began to whisper that the gods were surely punishing the Athenians, and especially Megacles, for breaking his promise.

This report spread throughout the city. The terrified people assembled, and voted to exile Megacles and all his family, the Alc-mæ-on´i-dæ. Such was the fury of the Athenians against the archon whose crime had brought misfortunes upon them, that they even dug up the bones of his ancestors, and had them carried beyond the boundary of Attica.