The Story of the Greeks

Page: 66

The Persian general was just then planning a new invasion of Greece, so the Athenians found themselves[Pg 147] threatened with a twofold danger. In their distress they recalled Cimon, who was an excellent general, and implored him to take command of their forces.

Cimon fully justified their confidence, and not only won several victories over the Spartans, but compelled them at last to agree to a truce of five years. This matter settled, he next attacked the Persians, whom he soon defeated by land and by sea.

He then forced Artaxerxes, the Persian king, to swear a solemn oath that he would never again wage war against the Athenians, and forbade the Persian vessels ever to enter the Ægean Sea.

These triumphs won, Cimon died from the wounds he had received during the war. His death, however, was kept secret for a whole month, so that the people would have time to get used to a new leader, and not be afraid to fight without their former general.

While Cimon was thus successfully battling with the enemy abroad, Pericles had managed affairs at home. He urged the Athenians to finish their walls; and by his advice they built also the Long Walls, which joined the city to the Pi-ræ´us, a seaport five miles away.

Pericles also increased the Athenian navy, so that, by[Pg 148] the time the five-years' truce was over, he had a fine fleet to use in fighting against the Spartans.

As every victory won by the Athenians had only made Sparta more jealous, the war was renewed, and carried on with great fury on both sides. The Spartans gained the first victories; but, owing to their better navy, the Athenians soon won over all the neighboring cities, and got the upper hand of their foes.

The Acropolis. The Acropolis.

They were about to end the war by a last victory at Cor-o-ne´a, when fortune suddenly deserted them, and they were so sorely beaten that they were very glad to agree to a truce and return home.

By the treaty then signed, the Athenians bound themselves to keep the peace during a term of thirty years.[Pg 149] In exchange, the Spartans allowed them to retain the cities which they had conquered, and the leadership of one of the confederacies formed by the Greek states, reserving the head of the other for themselves.

During these thirty years of peace, Pericles was very busy, and his efforts were directed for the most part toward the improvement of Athens. By his advice a magnificent temple, the Par´the-non, was built on top of the Acropolis, in honor of Athene.

This temple, one of the wonders of the world, was decorated with beautiful carvings by Phidias, and all the rich Athenians went to see them as soon as they were finished. This sculptor also made a magnificent gold and ivory statue of the goddess, to stand in the midst of the Parthenon. But in spite of all his talent, Phidias had many enemies. After a while they wrongfully accused him of stealing part of the gold intrusted to him. Phidias vainly tried to defend himself; but they would not listen to him, and put him in prison, where he died.