25. The Decline of Greece. The Greeks were brave and wise in many ways, but they had great faults also. They could seldom agree, and their cities were continually fighting with each other. They did not see until it was too late that all Greece was more important than any one city.

When Athens was so powerful, she selfishly began to bring other cities into subjection to herself, and treated them rather harshly. Other cities, led by Sparta, became jealous. So a great war broke out between Sparta and Athens in which nearly all Greece took part. For almost thirty years it went on. Many men were slain in the battles and terrible damage was done.

Finally Athens was defeated, and although she was not destroyed she lost much of her importance. But though the Spartans could fight successfully they could not lead Greece even so well as Athens. Their rule was so stern that their allies too rebelled, and finally Sparta was defeated by another city named Thebes. Thus Greece became weak and unable to defend herself.

26. How Philip of Macedon Gained Power. To the north of Greece lies a region which in ancient times was called Macedon, or Macedonia. The people of this country were much like the Greeks, though more rough and barbarous. But they were good soldiers, and their kings were wise and crafty.

Their first great king was Philip, who came to the throne just when Greece was growing weak. He saw his chance and determined to bring all Greece under his power.

First Philip improved his army. lie armed his men with very long spears and taught them to form themselves in bodies sixteen ranks deep. When the Macedonians leveled their long spears and advanced upon the enemy with steady step they bore down all before them, for none could break through the bristling line of spear points.

Philip's plan was to encourage the Greek cities to fight each other and then to crush first one city, then another. But there lived at that time in Athens a great speaker named Demosthenes who saw what Philip had in mind. In speeches of wonderful power this most famous of all Greek orators tried to arouse his countrymen to resist the Macedonian king. Though moved by his stirring words they hesitated until it was too late. When he was finally ready, Philip overthrew Athens and Thebes together in a great battle and thus became really the master of all Greece.

Yet he did not rule very harshly, for his purpose was to win the support of the Greeks for a great plan he had formed. In olden times Greece had nearly been conquered by the Persians. Philip dreamed that with himself as leader little Greece should conquer the great Persian Empire. But such glory was not for Philip. While celebrating in great splendor the marriage of his daughter, he was treacherously stabbed by a man whom he had offended.

27. The Youth of Alexander the Great. When Philip was thus slain many Greeks rejoiced, for they thought Greece would again be free. But never were men more mistaken. Alexander, the son of Philip, was one of the most remarkable men the world has ever known. Though only twenty years old when his father died (336 B.C.), he was already able to do great things. Quickly he taught the Greek cities that they must obey him, and then he eagerly carried on the preparations which his father had begun for the invasion of Persia.

Alexander was remarkably quick and impetuous. Even as a boy he had shown that he feared nothing and could achieve where others failed. When one could ride a fierce but wonderfully swift horse which had been brought to his father's court, Alexander sprang upon his back and easily tamed him. He had seen that the steed was frightened chiefly by his own shadow, and that when his head was turned to the sun he became docile. Among all his horses Alexander always loved Bucephalus best, and that brave steed cathed him safely through many a battle.

But Alexander was fond of books, too. His father had engaged as his teacher the great philosopher, Aristotle, and the prince paid careful attention to his lessons. He liked best, however, to study about exciting deeds of ancient heroes. So much did Alexander love the poems of Homer that it is said he could recite them by heart. He believed that Achilles was his own ancestor, and was determined that he, too, would be a hero and conquer cities greater than Troy.

28. How Alexander Carried Greek Ideas into Asia. When all was ready Alexander crossed with his army into

Asia. He did not take a great number of soldiers, but those he selected were brave and well disciplined.

How impossible it seemed that he should destroy the great Persian Empire which stretched thousands of miles on every side, and had millions of inhabitants! Yet he and other wise Greeks knew that Persia was not really so strong as it appeared. Oniy the Persian king and a few of his nobles had any real power. The nations which they ruled had nothing to say in their own affairs, and eared little whether they were governed by Persia or by some other nation. Wonderful were the achievements of the young Macedonian king. The Persian armies went down like paper before the long spears of his well-drilled soldiers. Odds of ten to one made no difference. With great daring

Alexander marched into the very heart of the Persian Empire, crossing rivers, climbing mountains, and overcoming all obstacles. Finally all the great Persian cities fell into his hands, and their king, who bore the old Persian name of Darius, was slain. Alexander marched even to distant India, where likewise he was victorious. Before he was thirty years old he was master of all southwestern Asia as well as of Egypt and Greece.

But Alexander could do more than win battles. He had great plans for improving the condition of the people whom he conquered. Wherever he went he founded new cities and introduced the Greek language and Greek learning. Greek ideas spread everywhere. Many of these cities long remained important, but of them all the greatest was Alexandria, founded at the mouth of the Nile in Egypt.

29. The End of Alexander's Empire. But though Alexander could conquer the world he could not conquer himself. Always high spirited, he became more and more vain, and gave way to fits of anger when any one differed with him. Flattered by the servility of the people of Asia, he began to adopt all the pomp of a Persian king and even let himself be worshiped as a god. Worst of all, he imitated the Persians in carousing and drinking deeply of wine. No wonder that his life came to an early end. When only thirty-two he was carried off by a sudden fever.

When Alexander was gone there was no one who could rule his vast empire. His generals divided his dominions among themselves, but they were not wise statesmen and soon began to fight with each other. All Asia fell into confusion. Though the descendants of some of these generals ruled parts of the empire for a long time, it could never be united again.

If the cities of Greece itself had been brave and strong as of old, they might now have regained their independence. But the old spirit was not there. Instead of joining to resist Macedon, they began again to contend against each other in long and useless wars. Thus they were once more helpless when a new power, far greater even than Macedon, appeared to interfere with their affairs.

But though the Greeks thus failed in the end, they had already done a wonderful work for the world. No people could see their buildings, their statues, their paintings, without trying to imitate them. No nation could read their poems, their books, their philosophy, without being moved to higher thoughts. Even when Greece was conquered she became the teacher of the ruder people who enslaved her.

30. The Spread of Hellenistic Civilization; Wonders of Alexandria. Since the conquests of Alexander had spread Greek ideas so widely, however, Athens no longer remained the all-important center from which Greek civilization reached other peoples. Among the cities outside of Greece famous for learning and art Alexandria in Egypt became the chief. Built as she was near the meeting place of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and favored by a splendid harbor, this new city soon became the seat of a rich commerce.

When the empire of Alexander the Great went to pieces Egypt fell to the share of one of his generals named Ptolemy. He was followed in power by a long line of rulers, all of whom had the same name. Nearly all the Ptolemies were interested in Greek learning, and under their fostering care Alexandria grew in time to rival even Athens itself in its many objects of interest and beauty.

At the mouth of the harbor of Alexandria was built the famous Pharos, or lighthouse, which was counted one of the seven wonders of the world. In the city itself stood a group of magnificent buildings called the "Museum." In this was kept the celebrated Alexandrine Library, which con tained copies of the writings of all the ancient authors. Though its books would look queer to us, because they were only rolls of paper made from an Egyptian plant called papyrus, skillfully written by hand instead of being printed, it was the first large library of which history tells. The museum contained also halls for lectures, and gardens filled with curious plants. It had even a menagerie of wild beasts brought from distant lands.

Alexandria had not merely lighthouses and fine buildings but also great philosophers and other scholars who vied with those of Athens. Among them was Euclid, the great mathematician.

The scholars of this later time were especially interested in some things about which the earlier Greeks had not known a great deal. Among these were astronomy and geography. Regarding seas, rivers, and distant lands the Greeks had of course learned much from the conquests and marches of Alexander the Great. The geographers of Alexandria knew perfectly well that the world was round. A scholar of this period even figured out what the distance around it must be, and came very near to the correct figures. Another guessed that the earth revolved about the sun.

The most celebrated geographer was Claudius Ptolemy, who lived in Alexandria in Roman times. He studied the writings of all the earlier scholars and put the things which he thought most worthy of belief into a famous book. For centuries afterward this book was regarded as the best account of the world. But Ptolemy thought that the earth was the center of all things, and that the sun, stars, and planets all revolved about it. Because it was taught by Ptolemy, this false notion that the earth is the center of the universe is usually called the "Ptolemaic system."

How much the men of later times relied on what the geographers of Alexandria taught is clearly shown by the fact that it was from them, and especially from Ptolemy, that Christopher Columbus and his friends took many of their ideas.

In many other ways also the Greek learning and art of later days after Greece had been conquered influenced the Romans and nations of more recent times. So this "Hellenistic civilization," though in some respects not equal to the best ideas that Greece had once had, acted as a sort of bridge to carry Greek learning and refinement over to later centuries and peoples.


The Leading Facts. 1. The Greeks wasted their strength in fighting each other. 2. After a long war Athens was beaten by Sparta, and then Sparta by Thebes. 3. Philip, the crafty king of Macedonia, took advantage of the quarrels of the Greeks and brought all Greece under his control. 4. He then planned a great expedition against Persia, but was slain before he could carry it out. 5. Philip's son, Alexander the Great, was a man of remarkable bravery and ability. 6. With a Greek army he marched into the Persian Empire. 7. After winning many battles, Alexander conquered all southwestern Asia. 8. Into this vast territory he introduced Greek ideas. 9. Alexander's work was cut off by his early death. 10. Alexander's empire soon fell to pieces, but the Greek cities could not regain their power. 11. Though Greece thus lost her independence, she gave to the world many great ideas.

Study Questions. 1. Why did the power of Greece decline? 2. What cities held the leadership in Greece? 3. Locate Macedonia. 4. How did Philip show that he was a crafty statesman? 5. Why was his army hard to defeat? 6. Why did he think that the Greeks, united, could conquer Persia? 7. Give an account of the youth of Alexander the Great. 8. What countries now occupy the region he marched through and conquered? 9. Why did many of the peoples of Asia not fight very hard against him? 10. What did Asia gain by being conquered by Alexander? 11. What were Alexander's chief faults? 12. What were the results of his death? 13. Why could the Greeks not regain their liberty? 14. If Greece was thus conquered by other countries, why was her history not a failure? 15. What were the chief wonders of Alexandria? 16. Tell something about the geographers of Alexandria.

Suggested Readings. Guerber, The Story of the Greeks, 152-157, 163-173, 190-201, 217-282; White, Plutarch for Boys and Girls, 420-444; Tappan, The Story of the Greek People; Harding, Stories of Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men; Yonge, Young Folks' History of Greece.

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© 2000 by Lynn Waterman