Concluding Period of Greek History

At the death of Alexander, the Athenians considered it a fit opportunity to emancipate themselves from the ascendancy of Macedon; but without success. Demosthenes, one of the most eminent patriots and orators of Athens, on this occasion, to avoid being assassinated by order of Antipater, the Macedonian viceroy, killed himself by swallowing poison; and his compatriot Phocion was shortly afterwards put to death by his own countrymen, the Athenians, in a mad outbreak of popular fury. Greece cannot be said to have produced one great man after Phocion; and this deficiency of wise and able leaders was doubtless one chief cause of the insignificance into which the various states, great and small, sunk after this epoch.

The ancient history of Greece, as an independent country, now draws to a close. Achaia, hitherto a small, unimportant state, having begun to make some pretensions to political consequence, excited the enmity of Sparta, and was compelled to seek the protection of Philip, the ruling prince of Macedon. Philip took the field against the Spartans, and their allies the Aetolians, and was in a fair way of subjecting all Greece, by arms and influence, when he ventured on the fatal step of commencing hostilities against the Romans. This measure consummated the ruin of Greece, as well as that of Macedon. The Romans warred with Philip till the end of his life (175 B.C.), and continued the contest with his son Perseus, whom they utterly defeated, and with whom ended the line of the kings of Macedon. In a few years the once illustrious and free republics of Greece were converted into a Roman province, under the name of Achaia (146 B.C.).

Thus terminates the fourth and last period of Greek history, during which flourished several eminent writers and philosophers, among whom may be numbered Theocritus, a pastoral poet; Xenophon Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Dionysius Halicarnassus, Plutarch, and Herodian, historians; Demosthenes, an orator; and Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurus, philosophers; also Zeuxis, Timanthes, Pamphilus, Nicias, Appelles, and Eupompus, painters; and Praxiteles, Polycletus, Camachus, Naucides, and Lysippus sculptors.

In the condition of a humble dependency of Rome, and therefore following the fate of that empire, Greece remained for upwards of four succeeding centuries; but although of little political importance, it still retained its preeminence in learning. Enslaved as the land was, it continued to be the great school of the time. As Greece had formerly sent her knowledge and arts over the East by the arms of one of her own kings, she now dif fused them over the western world under the protection of Rome. Athens, which was the emporium of Grecian learning and elegance, became the resort of all who were ambitious of excelling either in knowledge or the arts; statesmen went thither to improve themselves in eloquence philosophers to learn the tenets of the sages of Greece; and artists to study models of excellence in building, statuary, or painting; natives of Greece were also found in all parts of the world, gaining an honorable subsistence by the superior knowledge of their country. That country in the meantime was less disturbed by intestine feuds than formerly, but was not exempt from the usual fate of conquests, being subject to the continual extortions of governors and lieutenants, who made the conquered provinces the means of repairing fortunes which had been broken by flattering the caprices of the populace at home.

The period of the independence of Greece, during which all those great deeds were performed which have attracted the attention of the world, may be reckoned from the era of the first Persian war to the conquest of Macedon, the last independent Greek state, by the Romans. This period, as we have seen, embraced little more than 300 years. It is not, therefore, from the duration of the independent political power of the Grecian states that their celebrity arises. Even the patriotism of their soldiers, and the devoted heroism of Thermopylae and Marathon, have been emulated elsewhere without attracting much regard; and we must therefore conclude that it is chiefly from the superiority of its poets, philosophers, historians, and artists, that the importance of the country in the eyes of modern men arises. The political squabbles of the Athenians are forgotten; but the moral and intellectual researches of their philosophers, and the elegant remains of their artists, possess an undying fame.