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Tag Archives: Agamemnon

The Greek Way of Life 700 B. C. – 343 B. C.

Olympia

In the first years of Spartan peace, Greece was filled with wandering soldiers. Their little cities needed them no more. The new governments, which Spartans appointed, looked on them as men who might make trouble and were quick to get rid of them. Homeless and with no way to earn a living, the old campaigners roamed from place to place. They became soldiers of fortune, men who fought for any general or city that offered pay and three meals a day. In 401 B. C., ten thousand of them hired themselves out to Cyrus, a prince of Persia, who hoped to steal his brother’s throne. The Army of Ten Thousand was an odd lot. There were officers and men from a dozen or more Greek states, soldiers who had fought with and against each other during the thirty years of war that had torn Greece apart. Yet, under a foreign commander, they worked well together. They made a strong force which no Asian army could begin to match. Cyrus led them far into Persia and wherever they went they were victorious. Then Cyrus was killed in battle and the Greek officers were tricked and treacherously murdered. The great army suddenly found itself stranded, with neither money nor leaders. The men were not even sure where they were, except that it was hundreds of miles from the coast of Greece. Election of Xenophon The Persian king waited for them to lose heart and surrender, as any Asian army did when it had no officers to give it orders. The Army of Ten Thousand was Greek. After a day of confusion, the soldiers called an Assembly and elected a new general, Xenophon, a young Athenian who had been the assistant of one of the dead officers. For four months he led them …

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Gods and Heroes 800 B.C. – 550 B.C.

Homer

From island to island and town to town, across the wide new world of the Greeks, the minstrel wandered, with a harp slung across his back and a batch of stories in his hand. When he knocked at the gate of a palace or great house and offered to sing for his supper, he was never refused. There were no shows to see and no books to read. The people relied on the minstrels to entertain them and to tell their stories of the past, which otherwise might be forgotten. The minstrel’s stock of stories was a mixture of tall tales, half-remembered history and myths, the stories of the gods. He collected them wherever he travelled, usually from other minstrels. As the stories were passed along from singer to singer, the history grew a little fuzzier and the tales grew a great deal taller. In the great hall of a palace, where the lord and his guests gathered in the evening, the minstrel was given a place of honour. After dinner, he was invited to sing. Most of his songs began with the Achaean attack on Troy. First, he reminded his listeners of the reason for the war: Paris, a prince Troy, stole Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, Menelaus and the most beautiful woman in the world. The minstrel told about Agamemnon’s call to arms and the fleet that was made ready to sail. Then he listed the famous heroes who boarded the ships. Each had his own adventures and the minstrel chose different ones to tell about every evening. He might sing about Agamemnon, who came home from Troy victorious, only to be killed by his wife; or Achilles, the greatest of Greek warriors, who slew the Trojan champion Hector; or Odysseus, the craftiest of the …

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Companions of the King 1500 B.C. – 1000 B.C.

Mycenae

Across the plains of Peloponnesus, flashed the swift chariots of knights and warrior-princes. They wore armour of gleaming bronze and bright proud plumes bobbed above their helmets. They were the new men of a new country and they called themselves the Achaeans. Their kings called themselves the Sons of Pelops, the mighty chief and hero who had given his name to the Peloponnesus. Pelops, the Achaeans said, was the son of a god. Probably, however, he was the grandson of an European invader, for many of the Achaeans’ ancestors were barbarian invaders from the north. But they may have seemed like gods to the Shore People when they first hacked their way into the country. Their ragged beards and horned helmets were frightening to look at and they fought like demons, they took the land they wanted, built fortresses and settles down to stay. When Minoan sailor-merchants began to stop at their towns, the warriors went into business, growing olives and squeezing them in presses to make oil. Olive oil was the butter, cooking grease, lamp fuel and hair tonic of the ancient world and the Achaeans began to grow rich. For a hundred years, from 1500 to 1400 B. C., the Achaean kings built a stronghold at Mycenae, not for from the Isthmus, the strip of land that connected the Peloponnesus to the mainland. The new castle, towering above the plain, had room inside to shelter all the people of Mycenae. Its huge walls looked like cliffs and people said that the stones had been put there by the Cyclops, the one-eyed giants whose parents were the gods of the earth and sky. When the king’s trumpets sounded the warning that an enemy was near, farmers ran from their fields and potters and armourers left their shops at the …

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