Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/213

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THE ENVIRONMENT OF GRECIAN CULTURE.

had its interior circulation; its blood was sent out to the extremities, and from the limbs returned to the heart to be purified there and charged anew with the nutritious elements that kept up the life and originality of the race, and gave it its superior energy. It had the mobility of the waves, which, after they had sown the Grecian colonies all along the shores of the Mediterranean, were incessantly bringing them back to their native country. The sea, when they were still an infant and savage race, brought them the germs of civilization from the East. Through it they received the figures and the rites of divinities, the worship of which was destined to bring men together and make them social-writing, metals, and the processes and implements of the principal arts. The sea placed the Greeks in relations of the most favorable character with foreign nations; in such relations as are suggestive and not oppressive. It permitted frequent intercourse and prolonged visits, but did not lend itself readily to attempts at invasion. The peril from this source was the less in the early days of Greece, because the chief military powers of those times had no navies on the Mediterranean; and when Persia was ready to send armed fleets to achieve its conquest, Greece had become mature and had capable commanders and well-managed fleets.

Greece was further protected in the days of its development, on the continental side, by the formidable chain of Hæmus or the Balkan Mountains, behind which it was enabled to work out its destiny unobserved and unmolested by the barbarian peoples who were moving and marching beyond them in the valley of the Danube. South of these rise in succession the mountains that envelop Thessaly with their ramifications westward, and the Cambunian Mountains, both crossed only by narrow and difficult passes. When these were forced, and the enemy was in Thessaly, he had to scale other barriers no less difficult in order to reach the plains of Bœotia; and then, to get from each small state to the next, he had to surmount the other considerable chains that severally separate them, where he was constantly liable to be exposed to the eyes and arrows of the native population. Even if, after overcoming all these obstacles, a conqueror succeeded in penetrating to the end of the last redoubt, a slight accident might any day turn his triumph into a disaster. All the doors which he had opened might be closed upon him in an instant. "Greece," says M. Michelet, "is made like a trap with three bottoms: you find yourself caught in Thessaly, then between Thermopylæ and the isthmus, and at last in the Peloponnesus." It is a great advantage to a people to feel that it is secure in the country it lives in.

This peculiar disposition of their territory further enabled the Greeks to try the experiment of municipal government, and to demonstrate the excellent results it can give to a happily en-