Page images



THE most general name for Greece among the natives themselves was Hellas ; and the people were called Hellenes; but even this term did not comprize the inhabitants of Macedonia and Epirus. The poets, however, used, by synecdoche, to put the names of several small tribes for the whole body of the nation. The most usual term in Homer* is Achæi and Danai,

• The word Hellenes occurs only once in Homer, Iliad II. 648.; where it is used, not as a generic, but a specific name of the inhabitants of that part of Thessaly called Hellas; and, what is also remarkable, the word Græcia was not legally recognised by the Romans, who, from their having subdued the last bulwark of Grecian liberty, the Achæan confederacy, reduced Greece into a Roman province called Achaia. Afterwards, when the Romans overthrew Perses they formed his dominions into the proconsular province of Macedonia. The name of Grecia, however, was sufficiently familiar among the Romans in writing and conversation.

and sometimes Argivi. They were also called Pelasgi, from an antient nation of that name in Thessaly ; Iones, Dores, and Æoles, from the inhabitants of particular districts. Attica was the original seat of the Ionians, the Peloponnese the principal seat of the Dorians, and Thessaly the original country of the Æolians.

The lowest part of Greece, below the Sinus Corinthiacus and Sinus Saronicus, was called the Peloponnese, from Témonos vñoos, the island of Pelops. It was most antiently called Ægialea, from Ægialeus, Apia, from Apis, Pelasgia, from Pelasgus, its more antient Kings; but took the name of Peloponnese, from Pelops, the son of Tantalus, who reigned there. It was very nearly an island, being connected with the rest of Greece only by the narrow isthmus of Corinth. The modern name of Peloponnese is Morea, from the mulberry trees which grow there, having been introduced for supplying silkworms. The first province on the Eastern side, under the Sinus Saronicus, is Argolis; and below it is Laconia ; on the western side, opposite to Laconia, is Messenia ; above it is Elis ; along the Sinus Corinthiacus is Achaja ; and in the middle is Arcadia.

Argolis derives its name from Argos, situated on the river Inachus, above the Sinus Argolicus, and still called Argo. A little North East of Argos was Mycenæ, now Krabata, the royal city of Agamemnon, North West of which was Nemca, celebrated for the Nemean games, instituted in honour of Archemorus, who was killed there by a serpent, and for the victory of Hercules over the Nemean Lion. Eastward of Argos was Tyrins, or Tirynthus, a favourite residence of Hercules, who is thence called Tirynthius. East of it is the Mons Arachnæus, on which was one of the beacons, or fire telegraphs, of Agamemnon, by which he announced the capture of Troy the same night that it was taken.* Still East, on the coast of the Sinus Saronicus, is Epidaurus, celebrated for its worship of Æsculapius; and below it is Trezen, or Træezene, now Damala, the birth-place of Theseus, and scene of the Hippolytus of Euripides, off. the coast of which is the island Calauria, where Demosthenes poisoned himself. Near the South point of Argolis is the city of Hermione, now Castri, giving to the adjacent bay the name of Sinus Hermionicus. At the top of the Sinus Argolicus was Nauplia, now Napoli, the naval station of the Argives. Southward, below Argos near the shore, was Lerna, celebrated for the destruction of the Lernean Hydra by Hercules ; and on the confines of Arcadia was Сenchreæ, mentioned by Æschylus, in his Prometheus Vinctus, v. 677.

Below Argolis was Laconia, whose capital was Sparta, or Lacedæmon, on the river Eurotas, near which is the

[merged small][ocr errors]

more recent town of Misitra. To the North was Sallasia, a frontier town commanding the principal pass into Laconia, and a little South of Sparta was Amycle, built by Amyclas. Castor and Pollux were born here, and Apollo was here worshipped with peculiar solemnities. Amyclæ was called Tacitæ *, or the silent, either from the inhabitants being Pythagoreans, or from their having made a law which forbad the mention of an enemy's approach, they having been .once deceived by a false report. They were afterwards the victims of their absurd statute. A little below Amyclæ was Therapne. The extreme South Eastern promontory of Laconia was called Maleat, now Cape Malio, or St. Angelo, and the Gulph contained between it and the South Western promontory of Tænarus, or Cape Matapan, (one of the fabled entrances into the infernal regions I) was called the Sinus Laconicus, or Gulph of Colokythiu, from the antient town of Gytheum, now Colokythia, near the upper part of the bay.

West of Laconia was Messenia, the capital of which was Messene, which still retains its name, above the top of the Sinus Messeniacus, now the Gulph of Coron. The fortress of Ithome was near it, and served as its citadel. On the Western side was the Messenian Methone, now Modon, and above it the Messenian Pylos, now Nava

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

rin, off which was the island of Sphacteria, so memorable in Thucydides for the capture of many of the noblest Lacedæmonians. In the North, on the confines of Elis, is the river Cyparissus, having at its mouth the city of Cyparissæ giving name to the adjacent Sinus Cyparissius; and inland the fortress of Ira, the last which held out against the Lacedæmonians, who ejected the Messenians Ol. 27. 2, and held the province from them for 300 years, till Ol. 102. 3.

Above Messenia was Elis, divided into Triphylia, in the South, Pisatis, in the middle, and Cole, in the North. In Triphylia we meet with the Elean or Triphylian Pylos, which disputes with the Messenian the honour of being the country of Nestor, and a little above it, Scillus, the retreat of Xenophon. Above it was the river Alpheus, or Alfeo, having on its Southern bank Olympia, and on its Northern Pisa. This was the celebrated region in which the Olympic games were held in honour of Jupiter Olympias. They were of very antient foundation, and revived B. C. 776, and serve as the epoch of Grecian chronology. They were celebrated at the conclusion of every fourth year, or rather of every forty-ninth month, and were held for five successive days. The Roman Lustrum was a period of five years. Elis itself was situated on the river Peneus, in the district of Cæle, it was near Gastonni ; South East of which was a third Pylos, which has also strong claims to being allowed as the country of Nestor. Near it was a little stream called Geron, and a little village called Gerena, whence Nestor appears to be so often styled in Homer the Gerenian. Pindar, however,

« PreviousContinue »